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Decorated Knight set for battle in Prince of Wales’s Stakes

20 Jun 2017

Roger Charlton hoping improving five-year-old can upstage Highland Reel and Jack Hobbs

Jack Hobbs

Roger Charlton is hoping Decorated Knight can chalk up a third Group One win this season in as many countries when he contests the Prince of Wales’s Stakes (4.20) over a mile and a quarter at Royal Ascot on Wednesday.

The five-year-old is thriving on his racing and won the Tattersalls Gold Cup over the same distance at the Curragh on his latest start, having won the Emirates Airline-sponsored Jebel Hatta at Meydan in March.

He is one of nine runners to have been declared for the £750,000 showpiece, which is the most valuable race of the five-day meeting and forms part of the Middle Distance category of the QIPCO British Champions Series. Six have already won at least once at the highest level.

Charlton said: “He’s come out of his victory in the Tattersalls Gold Cup in very good form and he will appreciate the fast ground and likely fast pace. He has now won five of his last seven races and I think it is fair to say on each occasion he has improved. When he won at the Curragh he was pricking his ears and only doing what was required. He is progressing all the time into a thoroughly good horse.”

Asked if he could put his finger on why the five-year-old is flourishing, the Beckhampton handler said: “I don’t know. I’d like to think it is the way he is trained but I can’t claim that. He’s obviously travelled quite a lot and has become more relaxed.”

The betting is dominated by Jack Hobbs, Highland Reel and Ulysses. “There’s probably not a lot between that trio,” Charlton, who won the 2013 renewal with Al Kazeem, said. “Two of them excel at a mile and a half and would want to go forwards; I expect Highland Reel will probably make it a strong gallop. I’d say Ulysses is the most progressive mile and a quarter horse amongst the opposition.”

Highland Reel’s previous 17 runs in Group or Grade 1 races include victories in two QIPCO British Champions Series contests – the Investec Coronation Cup at Epsom this month and the QIPCO-sponsored King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot last year.

The five-year-old has won his connections £5.5 million in prize money and Aidan O’Brien, his trainer, said: “He’s an incredibly versatile horse and, while it’s not been long since Epsom, we’ve been happy with what he has done since then. He’s a typical Galileo – he’s very sound mentally and physically, and very consistent. He has a lot of natural ability, a lot of natural tactical pace and obviously he stays very well too.”

O’Brien will also saddle Johannes Vermeer, who won at Group 1 level as a two-year-old.

Queen’s Trust, who was placed in three QIPCO British Champions Series races last summer before winning the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf, gives Sir Michael Stoute a second significant runner (he also runs Ulysses), while Mekhtaal, winner of the Group 1 Prix d’Ispahan at Chantilly on his latest start, will attempt to become the first French-trained winner of the race since Byword in 2010.

Scottish, absent since finishing runner-up in the BMW Caulfield Cup in October, and Nezwaah, fluent winner of a Listed race at Ayr last month, complete the line-up.