Hukum, the 5-1 underdog, made a triumphant return to the racetrack after nearly a year since his Group One victory in the DahlBury Coronation Cup. The seasoned gelding outperformed the 2022 Derby winner, Desert Crown (2-5 favorite), who was also making his comeback since Epsom Downs. The thrilling encounter took place during the Group Three Racehorse Lotto Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park.
In the race, Desert Crown took the lead a furlong and a half from the finish line, appearing to have a secure hold on the victory as he accelerated impressively, establishing a clear advantage. Meanwhile, Hukum faced some challenges navigating through the field and still had a significant gap to close as they entered the final furlong. However, the determined six-year-old, guided by jockey Jim Crowley, showcased his resilience and gradually caught up to Desert Crown, ultimately seizing the win by half a length. Hukum’s memorable triumph was highlighted by the iconic blue and white Shadwell silks.
Reflecting on the race, winning trainer Owen Burrows expressed his astonishment at Hukum’s exceptional performance. He credited jockey Jim Crowley, who had previously mentioned the horse’s improved speed during training sessions. Burrows revealed that Hukum underwent necessary gallops in the previous week to prevent him from being overly fresh, and the strategy paid off splendidly. The victory in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes was seen as a preparatory run for the upcoming Hardwicke Stakes.
Burrows emphasized the importance of favorable ground conditions for Hukum, stating that if the going was on the fast side of good, they would need to reconsider their plans. Despite Hukum’s previous success over longer distances, including a win over a mile and six furlongs, Burrows emphasized the horse’s inherent speed. He acknowledged the need to challenge the perception of Hukum as a slow horse and hinted that there might be slight adjustments to their plans. However, at the moment, the trainer did not anticipate significant changes. Notably, Hukum and Desert Crown were closely matched in ratings, further underlining the significance of Hukum’s triumph.
Burrows expressed his gratitude to Sheikha Hissa, who had generously agreed to send Hukum back for training after his injury. The trainer recognized the valuable addition of a Group win over a mile and a quarter to Hukum’s racing record, as it helped dispel the notion of him being solely a stayer. Burrows praised the course conditions provided by Andrew Cooper, the Clerk of the Course at Sandown Park, and admitted to having initial concerns about the ground. He humorously shared that he had walked the full distance himself and felt a bit tired, receiving a playful comment from Richard Hills, indicating that he hoped Hukum was fitter than the trainer. Overall, the race was crucial in getting Hukum back on track before the prestigious Royal Ascot.
Jockey Jim Crowley commended the remarkable training efforts of Owen Burrows and the entire Shadwell team for successfully bringing Hukum back to form. Crowley regarded Hukum as a genuinely exceptional horse and expressed hope for further Group One successes in the future. While acknowledging that Desert Crown had the advantage of a head start in the race, Crowley believed that Hukum’s true potential would be realized over longer distances, particularly a mile and a half. The jockey appreciated witnessing Hukum’s convincing victory over 10 furlongs and expressed a desire to see him compete in a wet King George race during the summer