Hukum pips Westover in King George thriller

Hukum edged out Westover in a pulsating renewal of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

A field of 10 runners went to post for the Ascot’s midsummer highlight and the mile-and-a-half contest was rightly billed as the race of the season so far.

Last year’s Coronation Cup hero Hukum was a 13-2 shot after returning from injury to see off the 2022 Derby hero Desert Crown in the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown in May.

Always travelling well in the middle of the pack under Jim Crowley, the six-year-old moved up to challenge Westover for the lead passing the two-furlong marker and the pair settled down to fight it out from there.

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No quarter was given by either horse or jockey, but it was the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum who just found most for pressure to win a race for the ages by a head.

King Of Steel was best of the rest in third ahead of Luxembourg in fourth and the defending champion Pyledriver in fifth.

The disappointment of the race was dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin. The 9-4 favourite was trapped wide throughout, came under pressure racing down the back straight and weakened quickly before being eased right down by Ryan Moore, eventually passing the post in last place.

Burrows said: “I’m just speechless. He’s an absolute star, isn’t he.

“It is a big team effort – I have a great team behind me. My head lad rides him every day, John Lake.

“To be honest, we felt he has never been better, this season for whatever reason, he’s shown a lot more speed. But what a tough horse – and he had to be, because the second didn’t lay down, did he? He made us fight all the way.

“What a race. It lived up to its spectacle. I’m a bit hoarse from shouting.

“What can you say about him – he’s an absolute star. I can’t put into words what it means. I’m in my second season as a public trainer and we have a great team. The guys back at Shadwell rehabbed him after his injury at Epsom – huge credit to them.

“It was the type of injury that wouldn’t retire a horse, but he’d just won a Group One and he was five, so you think – hats off to Sheikha Hissa for giving him a chance.”

Hukum won the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2020
Hukum won the King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot in 2020 (Edward Whitaker/PA)

He added: “This horse has been a huge part of my career. He is my first Royal Ascot winner, first Group One winner and he won in Dubai when we first went out after the sad passing of Sheikh Hamdan, so to come back and so what he’s done is just amazing.”

Crowley said: “It was a performance of pure determination. The race went smoothly, I had a nice position, I got onto the back of Westover turning in and had to hope that something didn’t come from out of the pack because in fairness to the second, he didn’t lie down.

“Full credit to Sheikha Hissa because this horse could quite easily have gone off to stud after winning the Coronation Cup, being how he’s bred, but they decided to keep him in training and they’ve been rewarded.

“It’s a good training performance as well. This horse was off for a while, it was a brave decision not to run in the Hardwicke (at Royal Ascot last month) and it came to fruition today.

“It was the best King George on paper I’ve seen for a while and it was nice for him to win in the manner that he did.”

Aidan O’Brien was at a loss to explain Auguste Rodin’s effort, with the colt beaten a long way from home.

He said: “There are no excuses. Whatever happened, the power ran out and it ran out early.

“That is the unusual thing. The race wasn’t even started.

“He was calm in the paddock, we were very happy with him. There is obviously a reason and we’ll find it. It is frustrating, but that’s the way.”

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