Hukum wins Derby Desert Crown en route to Royal Ascot

Hookum, the 5-1 underdog, made a triumphant return to the racetrack nearly a year after winning the Group One Dalberry Coronation Cup. The seasoned gelding got the better of 2022 Derby winner Desert Crown (2-5 favourite), who was also returning from Epsom Downs. The thrilling encounter took place during the Group Three racehorse Lotto Brigade’s Gerard Stakes at Sandown Park.

In the race, Desert Crown took the lead by a length and a half from the finish line, looking confident of holding on for victory as he accelerated impressively to establish a clear advantage. Hukum, meanwhile, faced some challenges navigating the field and still had a sizeable gap to close as they entered the final furlong. However, the determined six-year-old, guided by jockey Jim Crowley, showed his stamina and gradually worked his way to the Desert Crown, eventually winning by half a length. Hukum’s memorable victory was highlighted by the iconic blue and white Shadwell silks.

Reflecting on the race, winning trainer Owen Burrows expressed his surprise at Hukum’s exceptional performance. He credited jockey Jim Crowley, who had previously noted the horse’s improved speed in training. Burroughs revealed that Hukum went through the necessary drives last week to keep him from being too fresh, and the strategy paid off nicely. The victory in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes was seen as preparation for the upcoming Hardwicke Stakes.

Burrows emphasized the importance of favorable land conditions for Hukum, noting that if progress is on the fast side of the bar, then they need to rethink their plans. Despite Hukum’s previous success over longer distances, including a victory 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 could be minor changes to their plans. However, at this moment the coach did not expect significant changes. Notably, Hukum and Desert Crown were closely matched in the ratings, further emphasizing the importance of Hukum’s win.

Burrows expressed his gratitude to Sheikha Hisa, who had generously agreed to send Hukum back to training after an injury. The trainer recognized the valuable addition of the victory over a mile and a quarter to Hukum’s racing record as it helped dispel the notion that he was all but one. Burrows praised the course conditions provided by Andrew Cooper, Clerk of the Course at Sandown Park, and admitted he had initial concerns about the ground. He joked that he had gone all the way and felt a bit tired, receiving an amusing comment from Richard Hills indicating that he hoped Hukum was better than the coach. Overall, the race was crucial in getting Hukum back on track ahead of the prestigious Royal Ascot.

Jockey Jim Crowley praised the remarkable training efforts of Owen Burrows and the entire Shadwell team to successfully restore Hukum. Crowley considered Hukum to be a truly exceptional horse and hoped for further Group One success in the future. Acknowledging that Desert Crown had the advantage of first start in the race, Crowley believed that Hukum’s true potential would be realized over longer distances, particularly over a mile and a half. The jockey appreciated witnessing Hukum’s convincing win over 10 furlongs and expressed his desire to see him race in the wet King George in the summer.

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