Hukum (right) denies Desert Crown (left) in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown
Credit: Alan Crowhurst
Matt Rennie (Racing Post)
Last year’s Derby hero Desert Crown was beaten on his return as Hukum made his own triumphant comeback in a thrilling finish to the Brigadier Gerard Stakes.
Having eased into contention and hit the lead just over a furlong from home under Richard Kingscote, Desert Crown looked to have the race at his mercy. But he was reeled in by Hukum, who had not been seen for 356 days since winning the Group 1 Coronation Cup at Epsom.
The six-year-old suffered a career-threatening hind-leg injury in the aftermath of his breakthrough top-level triumph last June, but was brilliantly nursed back to full fitness by trainer Owen Burrows to deny Desert Crown by a half-length.
Burrows said: “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. It’s amazing that he just seems to have a bit more speed this year.”
It was a seventh Group-race success in a stellar career for Hukum, who could be set for Royal Ascot for his next start.
“I just felt he needed a couple of gallops last week, he’s so well and I didn’t want him coming here too fresh,” Burrows added. “I felt this would be our prep run for the Hardwicke. It’s vital that he has good ground though. If it was the fast side of good we’d have to think about it.
“Plenty come back from that kind of injury but he was a five-year-old and I didn’t honestly think it would be in the realms that he could come back.”
It was a first career defeat for the Sir Michael Stoute-trained Desert Crown, who was sent off the 2-5 favourite and hit a low of 1.09 in running on the Betfair Exchange.
Stoute said: “He’s a little ring-rusty. He had his race won and he’s just tied up a little in the closing stages. It’s been a year off, that’s a long time.”
When it was noted that the winner had a long time off as well, Stoute added: “Has he? Well he’s [Owen Burrows] done a better job than me at getting him ready.”
However, Bruce Raymond, racing manager for Desert Crown’s owner Saeed Suhail, was more upbeat about his comeback effort and is confident he will be better on his next outing.
“It’s been a long time since he’s ran, the same as the winner. He probably needed it and he’s having a good blow. We are pleased despite the result,” he said.
“He’s travelled beautifully into it. He doesn’t know the winner is behind him. He’s done everything bar win. He’s going to improve from it, that goes without saying.”
Desert Crown drifted to 14-1 (from 8) with Betfair Sportsbook for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe following his shock turnover, while Hukum was cut to 14-1 (from 25) with the same firm for the Longchamp showpiece on October 1.