Sea The Stars' Hukum Prevails In King George War

Hukum (r) edges Westover | Getty Images


After all that build-up, Saturday's G1 King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II Qipco S. had to live up to the billing and it managed it with a stirring finale provided by Shadwell's Hukum (Ire) (Sea The Stars {Ire}–Aghareed, by Kingmambo) and Westover (GB) (Frankel {GB}) as the older horses ruled the roost at Ascot. Kept away from fast ground after his defeat of Desert Crown (GB) (Nathaniel {Ire}) in the G3 Brigadier Gerard S. at Sandown in May, the Owen Burrows-trained full-brother to Baaeed (GB) would have been any price for this prior to that revelatory comeback but traded at only 13-2 after the significant rain during the week tipped the scales in his favour.

Always travelling easily under cover in mid-division with Jim Crowley content to wait with the homebred, he went forward as Auguste Rodin (Ire) (Deep Impact {Jpn}) disappeared out of view turning for home with Ryan Moore giving up the unequal struggle and easing the 9-4 favourite out of the race. It was Westover who provided the target as Rob Hornby committed approaching two out, but Hukum had that extra helping of speed and after gaining the edge a furlong out denied the rallying Juddmonte runner by a head in this 'Win and You're In' for the GI Breeders' Cup Turf in November. There was a 4 1/2-length margin back to the 3-year-old King Of Steel (Wootton Bassett {GB}) in third, with some tired horses further back in what turned into a war of attrition with the winning time the third-slowest since 1997.

“I've always believed in this horse and he's out of his brother's shadow now,” Crowley said. “That was something special. It went real smoothly and although Westover got first run on me it gave me something to aim at. He's so tough and it never felt like he was going to come off second best there.”

First emerging on the scene with a win in the course-and-distance King George V H. at the Royal meeting here three years ago, Hukum was St Leger-bound after beating up the older horses in the G3 Geoffrey Freer S. but was ill-equipped for such a stamina test at that stage and could manage only fifth to close out a decent 3-year-old campaign. After his third on soft ground in the G2 Hardwicke S. the following June, he was confined to group 3 company and looked to have reached a ceiling with a second to this race's absentee Hamish (GB) (Motivator {GB}) in the G3 September S.

What that defeat actually did was create a dividing line between Hukum Part 1 with limitations and the new sleeker model which was on display at Epsom last June as he blew away Pyledriver (GB) (Harbour Watch {Ire}) by 4 1/4 lengths in the G1 Coronation Cup. Injury struck there and so the fates looked sealed, particularly while Baaeed took a sibling rivalry that had never looked a fair fight to new levels. Instead of retirement, there was in its place a concerted effort between the Burrows stable and Shadwell to give Hukum a 6-year-old campaign which would answer some lingering questions and the Brigadier Gerard did that and how.

While the heavy rain into Thursday played against Auguste Rodin and Emily Upjohn (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) and probably also the fleet-footed King Of Steel most notably, it meant that Hukum had all boxes ticked in a race that was always going to boil down to small margins. For Auguste Rodin, this was a re-run of the 2000 Guineas disaster, only played out over a greater time scale as the all-or-nothing dual Derby hero proved unequivocally that he needs it fast. Point Lonsdale (Ire) (Australia {GB}) and Bolshoi Ballet (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}) went as quick as they could in front, but all bar the favourite were comfortable in behind and turning for home the eventual one-two-three were those with jockeys sitting the most quiet.

Any prospect of a blanket finish diminished rapidly straightening up, with Luxembourg (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) and Pyledriver treading water and Emily Upjohn floundering as the front two drove on into daylight with King Of Steel coming to the end of his stamina reserves. Looking at Westover, who had been such a flop here 12 months ago and who ran away from Hornby's whip to lose momentum in the closing stages, the deciding factor was probably the two years of hardening and extra maturity that the Shadwell representative had in his favour. Emerging as two true King George giants, they in the process gained overdue credibility having endured their fair share of being at times under-rated and under-valued by the press.

For Owen Burrows, the outcome was a dream scenario which 12 months ago would have seemed fanciful to even the biggest romantic. “He's an absolute star, isn't he? It is a big team effort, especially from my head lad who rides him every day, John Lake, and this season for whatever reason he's shown a lot more speed.”

“I can't put into words what it means,” he added. “The guys back at Shadwell rehabilitated him after his injury at Epsom, so 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 hats off to Sheikha Hissa for giving him a chance. This horse has been a huge part of my career. He was 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.”

Juddmonte's Barry Mahon described connections' mixed feelings after going so close. “We're devastated but delighted,” he said. “What a horse, what a horse race. He's run a career-best in what was being touted beforehand as the middle-distance race of the year and he went down gallantly. I felt he was even battling back again at the finish. He put it all on the line and he's doing what we thought he'd do this year. Last year he was big and immature and he's mentally and physically grown up. To break the track record the last day in Saint-Cloud was a big performance and to back it up with a run like that three weeks later is unbelievable.”

Rob Hornby added, “This race deserves a spectacle like that and to have an ovation for this horse, coming second like we did, was special. It is tough to take, but I'm really proud of him. He stays very well. He rolled around twice and I pulled my stick through and corrected him. When he got into a head-to-head, he was tough all the way to the line and he was just edged out unfortunately.”

Roger Varian said of King Of Steel, “I think he ran a great race, he lost nothing in defeat and came there with a great chance. He has been beaten by two mature, good, older horses. I'm not sure he got home as well as the first two. We have always got the option of coming back to 10 furlongs, but he had some great horses in behind him, two very good ones in front of him, and it's only his fifth run so he can only improve can't he?”

“He has the scope and is a big horse,” Varian added. “I'm sure he needs a little time between races. He's had a tough race today, but he's like a teenager, still. We got beat, but it was a super race–a championship race. He turned up and really ran his race.”

Aidan O'Brien said of Auguste Rodin, “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.”

Pedigree Notes

Hukum, who was the fifth member of his family to run in this and the second to win it as he emulated the feat of Nashwan in 1989. It was in this race in 1982 that his fifth dam Height Of Fashion (Fr) raced for Sheikh Hamdan for the first time after he had purchased her from The Queen and she was seventh after banging her head coming out of the stalls. Prior to the victory of Nashwan, her son of Northern Dancer, Unfuwain, was second to Mtoto (GB) in 1988 while her other participant Nayef went down by a head to Golan (Ire) in a finish almost identical to this in 2002. He was also here a year later, but finished seventh as the 3-1 favourite on ground similar to this.

The Listed Prix de Liancourt winner Aghareed is nothing short of a goldmine for the operation, having been the best bred from the GI Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf and GI Flower Bowl Invitational S. heroine Lahudood (GB) (Singspiel {Ire}) who like Hukum took time to gather momentum before exploding as champion grass mare in the Autumn of 2007. The fourth dam Bashayer (Mr. Prospector) is a full-sister to the Listed Oh So Sharp S. scorer Sarayir, who produced the G1 1000 Guineas and G1 Coronation S. heroine Ghanaati (Giant's Causeway) who is in turn responsible for the classy miler Mutasaabeq (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}). Less than 24 hours after her 3-year-old colt Naqeeb (Ire) (Nathaniel {Ire}) managed to get beaten for the third time at Newmarket, Aghareed's story has gained an extra momentous chapter. She also has the 2-year-old colt by Night Of Thunder (Ire) named Waleefy (Ire) and a 2023 full-brother to Hukum and Baaeed to come.

Saturday, Ascot, Britain
KING GEORGE VI AND QUEEN ELIZABETH QIPCO S.-G1, £1,250,000, Ascot, 7-29, 3yo/up, 11f 211yT, 2:33.95, g/s.
1–HUKUM (IRE), 135, h, 6, by Sea The Stars (Ire)
     1st Dam: Aghareed (SW-Fr), by Kingmambo
     2nd Dam: Lahudood (GB), by Singspiel (Ire)
     3rd Dam: Rahayeb (GB), by Arazi
O/B-Shadwell Estate Company Limited (IRE); T-Owen Burrows; J-Jim Crowley. £708,875. Lifetime Record: GSW-UAE, 17-11-1-2, $1,859,692. *Full to Baaeed (GB), MG1SW-Eng, G1SW-Fr, $3,398,976. Werk Nick Rating: A+++ *Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree, or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Westover (GB), 135, c, 4, Frankel (GB)–Mirabilis, by Lear Fan. O-Juddmonte; B-Juddmonte Farms Ltd (GB); T-Ralph Beckett. £268,750.
3–King Of Steel, 124, c, 3, Wootton Bassett (GB)–Eldacar (GB), by Verglas (Ire). ($200,000 Ylg '21 KEESEP). O-Amo Racing Limited; B-Bonne Chance Farm, LLC (KY); T-Roger Varian. £134,500.
Margins: HD, 4HF, 3 1/4. Odds: 6.50, 7.00, 4.50.
Also Ran: Luxembourg (Ire), Pyledriver (GB), Bolshoi Ballet (Ire), Emily Upjohn (GB), Point Lonsdale (Ire), Deauville Legend (Ire), Auguste Rodin (Ire). Scratched: Hamish (GB).


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