Trained by Owen Burrows, Hukum is now six and his career looked over after he picked up what looked a career-ending injury in winning the Coronation Cup 12 months ago.
The decision was taken to keep him in training and that now looks inspired, as Jim Crowley – who briefly looked boxed in – got Hukum flying late on to win by half a length in an enthralling battle up the Sandown hill.
Desert Crown had been kept off the track by his own injury – for 355 days to Hukum’s 356 – after his famous Epsom success on what was just his third ever outing.
Following his tried and tested route with his top-class older horses, Sir Michael Stoute was looking for a 12th win in the race and connections were happy going into the Group Three feature.
Settled in fifth by Richard Kingscote as stablemate and pacemaker Solid Stone led at a steady gallop, he was set something of a test but breezed into the lead a furlong out only to be reeled in late on by the 5-1 winner.
While Stoute will no doubt be left scratching his head his former assistant Burrows will be dreaming of a big summer.
Betfair cut Hukum – who is a full-brother to the brilliant Baaeed – to 14-1 from 25s for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with Desert Crown now the same price from 8s.
Burrows said: “He feels a bit quicker this year and he must have developed a bit of speed from somewhere.
“He needed a couple of gallops last week because he is so well that I didn’t want him to become too fresh.
“It has worked out brilliantly. This was a prep run for the Hardwicke (at Royal Ascot), but it is vital he does have good ground, the fast side of good, we’d have to have a think.
“I’ve always said he’s not a slow horse. He’s win over a mile and six, he’s always shown speed at home, but until you see it on the track.
“We will have to have a bit of a rethink maybe. I don’t see the plans changing too much.
“We were only a pound behind him (Desert Crown) on ratings.”
An impressed Crowley said: “I’ve been riding him work at home and said to Richard (Hills) and Owen, that’s the best he’s ever been. To say that about a six-year-old, who had been showing a bit of speed at home, who, don’t forget, had won over a mile and six and a mile and a half, that was a very good performance tonight.
“We thought he was finished. Owen has brought him back, it is a hell of a training performance and everyone at Shadwell has done well to get him back. He is just a proper horse and hopefully he can add to his Group One tally.
“To beat a Derby winner, who got first run on me, it was a mile and quarter, things were not really in our favour, but I think when he goes back to a mile and half, he will be as good, if not better. It was nice to see him win like that.
“It is amazing. When he gets that toe in a bit, he’s a machine.”
Meanwhile, Stoute said of Desert Crown: “He is a little ring-rusty. He looked like he had his race won and then he just tied up in the closing stages. He has been a year off – it has been a long time.”
Pointed out that the winner had also had a year off, he responded: “Has he? Well, he’s run better than me.”
Asked if he was still on course for the King George, he added: “I don’t know. It will be the two races he’s in (King George and Prince of Wales’s Stakes) – I’m not going to make any decisions now.”
Bruce Raymond, racing manager for Desert Crown’s owner Saeed Suhail, said: “I think he did everything right. It is not for me to say, but I thought he was fitter than that. It has been a long time since he ran, as it was with the winner. He probably needed it, because he’s had a good blow.
“He was smooth and I felt he did everything right. Obviously he didn’t know the winner was stuck in behind, but I felt he did everything right.
“Obviously he is going to improve.”
Elite Status sizzles in National Stakes
Elite Status turned what looked a competitive renewal of the Racehorse Lotto National Stakes at Sandown into a procession.
Trained by Karl Burke, the son of Havana Grey – who himself won this race in 2017 – cost 325,000 guineas at Tattersalls Book 2 in October and already looks like living up to his purchase price.
A winner at Doncaster on soft ground on debut, he faced quicker conditions on this occasion but that proved no barrier to success.
Blue Storm grabbed the favoured rail early and made sure the field was quickly stretched, with Charlie Appleby’s On Point very slowly away and losing all chance.
Dapper Valley then had the misfortune of malfunctioning tack which cost him any chance and with Son Of Corballis another outpaced the contenders began to thin out.
With well over a furlong to run Clifford Lee moved Elite Status (5-2 favourite) up to join Blue Storm and the response was electric.
Burke’s colt lengthened smartly and just went further clear with every stride, eventually winning by five lengths with stablemate World Of Darcy running on into second and Hackman third.
Paddy Power make the winner their 2-1 favourite for the Norfolk at Royal Ascot.
Burke: “He looked in a different league. He has the makings of being a superstar sprinter, really. He has got the scope as well and is a long way from wound up. He does things nice and easy at home and we haven’t forced him at all. He will improve again on this for Ascot and obviously he will go for the Norfolk.
“It looked very easy. Clifford made a great move after a furlong or so. I was worried about the horse on the outside coming and boxing him in. I wanted it nice and simple. He is a lovely horse with a big stride.
“It’s a lot quicker ground than Doncaster, so I was a bit worried he might be a little bit green and outpaced early, I just wanted a nice, clear run. Clifford did exactly the right thing, he switched out and got a lovely smooth passage.
“I think he is a very good horse and has the potential to be a superstar.
“If he arrives there as good as I think I can get him there, why not go there with the same level of confidence as we did (with Dramatised in the Queen Mary).
“We know Wesley Ward will come over with some rockets, but this fella will stay very well on that track.”
Burke added: “The second is a good, solid horse who will be winning plenty of races. He will go for the Windsor Castle probably. Ryan (Moore) said he was a nice horse who did everything right. He is a nice horse, but not in the winner’s league.”
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