Owen Burrows could not have picked a better stage to register his first Group One victory – and advertise his talents to potential new owners in the process – as stable stalwart Hukum ran away with the Dahlbury Coronation Cup at Epsom.
Burrows had been employed by the late Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum to train a large majority of his string but following the Sheikh’s death last year, his family took the decision to cut back on their number of horses in training and Burrows had to strike out on his own.
While relishing the challenge, the security blanket had been taken away from him and he faced the prospect of moving yards and looking for new owners simultaneously.
He is understandably down on numbers, but Shadwell did leave him with his best horse and to the trainer’s relief, the five-year-old continues to come up with the goods.
Having won his first Group Two in Dubai after four wins in Group Three company, Hukum had always come up just short at the highest level, including when not beaten far into seventh in the Sheema Classic, also in Dubai.
Hukum did look to have a solid chance, though, despite last year’s winner Pyledriver and Tattersalls Gold Cup runner-up High Definition in opposition.
Sent off at 11-4, Jim Crowley covered Frankie Dettori’s move on Pyledriver and the way Hukum quickened clear to win by four and a quarter lengths suggested it will not be his last Group One, either.
Burrows admitted a sense of relief after the race, and acknowledged the timing could not have been better in registering the biggest winner of his career.
“I’m thrilled for myself and my team at home to get the first Group One,” he said.
“It’s well documented what has happened with the cut down of the string so I’m thrilled, and for the horse.
“We’ve got reduced numbers but it’s still a big thrill to be training for Sheikh Hamdan’s family. Hopefully this advertises we can get the job done and it might get us a few more owners. The timing is good in that respect. It’s been a tough six months, we’ve had to reduce the team but the guys at home work so hard.”
Focussing on Hukum, Burrows will now have to possibly rethink his plans, which had tentatively been to go abroad in search of Group One glory.
“He won his Group Two in Dubai and then probably ran a career-best in the Sheema Classic. He was drawn wide that day, they didn’t go quick and he was only beaten a little over a length and a half, so I was relatively pleased.
“I always thought he might win a Group One, he looked progressive there so we’ll have to see where we go next.
“A bit of juice is important but he’s pretty versatile. He’s in the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud, he’s in a German Group One, he’s in the Irish St Leger and then we possibly thought Canada. I thought we might have to travel to win one, but we might have to rethink that now.
“The King George is the obvious one but we’ll have to see what the ground is like. He’s not in the Arc but it was a conversation, we did debate it. It will have to be an option and he’s in that division now.”
Paddy Power introduced him at 8-1 for the mid-summer showpiece.
Crowley was thrilled also, and given he rides Hukum’s full-brother, the William Haggas-trained unbeaten Baaeed, is in the position of knowing the family very well indeed.
Crowley said: “He’s always threatened to do that, if you remember what he did at Ascot last year in the Cumberland Lodge, he absolutely demolished them.
“He’s always been there, he was unlucky in the Sheema Classic I felt, finishing seventh but beaten less than two lengths. Coming here today I was confident he’d go close.
“He’s a bit like his brother in truth – just not as fast!
“He handles cut in the ground, so those big races in the autumn wouldn’t hold any fears. It’s testament to the family really, Sheikh Hamdan would be delighted.”