By Duane Fonseca
Setting aside the fact he was racing competitively after nearly a year, Hukum came up with a swooping run that swept aside last year’s Derby winner Desert Crown in a tense finish to the Group 3 Brigadier Gerard Stakes (2000m) at Sandown late Thursday.
In all fairness, Desert Crown was also returning from a long break. He was running for the first time since his famous win in the top British Classic on June 4 last year, a full 355 days. Hukum had been away a day longer - 356 - and was last seen winning the Group 1 Coronation Cup on June 3. Defeat marked Desert Crown’s first reversal in four career starts, but it put another feather in the cap of Shadwell’s Hukum, a six-year-old full son of Sea The Stars.
Better still the podium turned out to be a 1-2-3 for UAE connections, with second-placed Desert Crown’s teammate Solid Stone, also carrying the colours of famed Emirati owner Saeed Suhail, finishing third.
Trained by Owen Burrows’ Hukum had sustained a hind-leg fracture during his Coronation Cup success, an injury that threatened to put paid to his career. But he seemed in fine nick Thursday and after a near-even break under Jim Crowley, he raced comfortably off the pace set by Solid Stone, trained by Sir Michael Stoute and guided by Ryan Moore.
After Solid Stone led the field into the straight, David Simcock’s Cash, Jamie Spencer up, pounced on the lead, but weakened soon after gaining the ascendancy as Desert Crown, also trained by Stoute and carrying Richard Kingscote, his partner when winning the Derby, turned up the heat.
Desert Crown looked like he had it nailed 200m out when coasting to the front, but after finding room to run Crowley and Hukum had gained the momentum needed to sweep home a half length clear. Solid Stone was a further four and half adrift in third.
It was a mesmerising performance and it left Burrows speechless. “A furlong down I was pleased, I thought he’d got stuck in a bit of a pocket and we were going to run on and finish second. I would have been chuffed with that,” he said.
“I’ve always said he’s not a slow horse. He’s always shown speed at home but it’s amazing that he just seems to have a bit more this year.
“Plenty come back from that kind of injury but he was a five-year-old when it happened and I honestly didn’t think it would be in the realm of possibility that he would. Sheikha Hissa very sportingly said if his rehab goes well then he could return, so fair play to her.”
Hukum could now line up in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot, with a tilt at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp another possibility. “He was my first Group 1 winner and I will find it hard to replace him when the time comes. He’s been an absolute star for the whole team,” Burrows added.
On what turned out to be a good day of racing at Sandown for Emirati connections, Karl Burke trained Elite Status won the Listed National Stakes over 1000m in the colours of Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum. Guided by Clifford Lee, the Havana Grey juvenile finished five clear of stable companion World Of Darcy, the ride of Moore, with Hackman a further length back in third for the trainer-jockey combine of Hugo Palmer and James Doyle.
Kingscote might have narrowly failed with Desert Crown, but he found winning luck in the other Group 3 event on the card, the 3200m Henry II Stakes, in which he guided William Haggas’ Roberto Escobarr to victory by a neck from Andrew Balding’s Nate The Great, the ride of William Buick. A further three and a half back in third was Sleeping Lion for co-trainers Harry and Roger Charlton and jockey Moore.