Hukum primed for defence of Geoffrey Freer crown

Owen Burrows expects Hukum to put up a staunch defence of his crown in the BetVictor Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury on Saturday.

The four-year-old successfully stepped up from handicap company to Group Three level with victory in this race 12 months ago and returns at the top of his game.

So far this season Hukum has won the Tapster Stakes at Goodwood and the Silver Cup at York, with an excellent run to finish third behind star mare Wonderful Tonight in the Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot sandwiched in between.

A Group Three penalty for his latest triumph means the Sea The Stars colt must concede weight all round this weekend, but Burrows is nevertheless anticipating a bold showing.

He said: “His run in the Hardwicke was probably the best run of his life, I suppose – he had two Group One winners (Wonderful Tonight and Broome) in front of him.

“He obviously won well at York. He was in at Goodwood the other day, but we’ve waited for this race and, touch wood, he’s in great form.

“He’ll have to carry a 3lb penalty, but there isn’t really a suitable Group Two option for him in Britain. I’m actually going to enter him in a Group Two at Deauville at the end of the month.

“He’ll have to carry a penalty on Saturday, but so be it. We’ll give it a shot and see what happens.”

Golden Pass (near) winning at Beverley in June
Golden Pass (near) winning at Beverley in June (Tony Knapton/PA)

One of the biggest threats to Hukum is Hugo Palmer’s progressive filly Golden Pass.

An all-the-way winner of the Listed Aphrodite Stakes at Newmarket last month, the four-year-old was subsequently taken out of the Lillie Langtry at Goodwood on account of the testing conditions.

Palmer said: “She’ll love the drying ground. I was aiming to run her at Deauville, but I just can’t trust the drying ground over there, so we thought we’d stay at home.

“She’s been in very good form and I think the step up in trip should bring about some improvement, so fingers crossed.”

The William Haggas-trained Pablo Escobarr has not managed to get his head in front since winning the Glorious Stakes at Goodwood last summer, and most recently finished fifth in the same race a fortnight ago.

“He’s a regular in these kind of races and seems really well,” said Haggas.

“I hope he’ll run a good race. Hukum is the danger, I think.”