October 2023 marked the end of a training era in Wiltshire, as Classic-winning handler Roger Charlton saddled his final runner. With Roger’s son, Harry, adding his name to the training licence last season, the signs had been there that the septuagenarian may be about to call time on his official training career. That said, whilst his name may no longer be on the licence, Roger insists he will not be heading into retirement, but rather remaining at the Beckhampton training base and assisting his son Harry in whatever way he can.
Nevertheless, all future winners hailing from the 200-year-old establishment will be officially credited to Harry Charlton. The 37-year-old could scarcely have a more experienced ally, with Roger having registered over 1,400 winners ever since taking over from his former boss, Jeremy Tree, in 1990. From handicappers to Group 1 stars, and from sprinters to stayers, Roger proved adept with all types of runners – being particularly renowned for his elaborate planning and patience with the horses under his care.
Roger Charlton’s Greatest Wins
As with all trainers, there are those wins which stand out from the crowd, and here we look back at five successes which put the name of one of the most gentlemanly trainers in the game up in lights.
5. Cityscape – Dubai Turf 2012
Roger Charlton benefitted from an association with many of the most powerful owner-breeders in the sport during his time at the helm. Included amongst that number was the Juddmonte Farms maestro Khalid Abdullah. A staunch supporter of the yard in the early years of Charlton’s career, the man who counted the great Frankel amongst his legendary fleet of equine talent continued to back Charlton well into the current century.
2012 saw the duo combine to spectacular effect to claim one of the most coveted prizes at the Dubai Carnival, as the Selkirk colt Cityscape swept to glory in the Dubai Duty Free. Headed into the event, the six-year-old had failed in five previous attempts to claim Group 1 glory, coming closest when going down by just a short head in the 2011 Premio Vittorio Di Capua. Having gone so close in Italy, the globetrotting star would make no mistake in Dubai, travelling ominously well throughout, before putting the field to the sword in scintillating style to claim just under £2 million in prize money – the biggest single payday of Charlton’s career.
4. Decorated Knight – Irish Champion Stakes 2017
Charlton registered four top-level successes in Ireland, with the pick of the bunch being the last of that quartet in 2017. Sired by the mighty Galileo, Decorated Knight had already taken the yard to the top table on a number of occasions – winning the Jebel Hatta and Tattersalls Gold Cup during that memorable 2017 campaign. However, having disappointed in the Coral-Eclipse and Juddmonte International on his two previous starts, few expected him to prevail in one of the hottest Group 1s on the Irish calendar.
Sent off at 25/1, Decorated Knight certainly looked up against it in a field containing English and Irish 2000 Guineas champ Churchill, Epsom Derby runner-up Cliffs Of Moher, US Grade 1 winner Zhukova, and Eminent, who arrived on the back of an impressive Group success in France. As the field turned for home, those 25/1 odds looked about right, with Decorated Knight sitting last of the 10 runners. However, once switched to the outside, the five-year-old produced a jet-propelled effort to reel them all in and land a thriller.
3. Patavellian – Prix de l’Abbaye 2003
Joining the Beckhampton operation in May 2002 with a record of six defeats from six starts, all at Class 4 level, Charlton looked to have a job on his hands if he was to get even a handicap win out of Patavellian. In the end, he did better than that. Much better.
Zero from five in his first five outings for his new trainer and slipping down to Class 6 level, the penny finally dropped for the son of Machiavellian, with the application of blinkers having a staggering effect. Having located his innate talent, the gelding went on to win seven of his next eight starts, rising from a mark of 64 to 115 in the space of a year. The undoubted highlight in that magnificent streak was win number seven when Patavellian confirmed he was a Class 6 handicapper no more, with a gritty success in one of the biggest Group 1 sprints of the French season.
2. Al Kazeem – Prince Of Wales’s Stakes (2013)
Of the many star performers to have passed through the Charlton yard over the years, the best of them all – at least according to the official handicapper – is the talented son of Dubawi – Al Kazeem. This strapping bay was another fine example of Charlton’s patient approach paying off in spades, with the colt claiming his first Group 1 success at five years of age when mastering Camelot in the 2013 Tattersalls Gold Cup.
Having broken his duck at the top table, Al Kazeem’s finest hour came just one month later at Royal Ascot. With Camelot, The Fugue, and Mukhadram all amongst the opposition, the 2013 edition of the Prince Of Wales’s Stakes looked a red-hot renewal. And so it proved, with Al Kazeem rattling home under a perfectly timed James Doyle ride to get up in the shadow of the post.
1. Quest For Fame – Epsom Derby (1990)
Just the one British Classic features on the Charlton CV, and it came in his very first season. As far as debut campaigns go, it doesn’t get too much better than winning Britain’s biggest flat race, and this was the victory which placed Charlton firmly on the map. The horse to do it went by the name of Quest For Fame and sported the Abdullah silks, made so famous by Frankel, Enable, and Quest For Fame’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe-winning father, Rainbow Quest.
Having won only one of three starts heading into Epsom and managing only third in the Chester Vase, Quest For Fame didn’t look the most obvious winner of the 1m4f showpiece, but Charlton had him primed and ready to peak when it really mattered. Well positioned throughout under Pat Eddery, the colt responded willingly to his jockey’s urgings to hit the front a furlong from home and never looked like being caught. A fine start to a career littered with highlights, and no doubt Roger will remain a familiar sight at the biggest meetings, as he guides his son Harry down a similar path.