Trainer Owen Burrows admits it would be “very fitting” if Hukum could provide him with a timely boost following what he has described has been a “tough time” by securing him a first Group One victory in the DahlBury Coronation Cup at Epsom Downs on Ladies Day at the Cazoo Derby (Friday 3rd June).
Since the end of the 2021 season the Lambourn handler has faced arguably the most difficult period of his career after enduring plenty of upheaval since the passing of owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who he had previously trained exclusively for, last March.
With his horse numbers reduced following a decision made by Shadwell Estates Company to streamline its operation, Burrows took the decision to relocate to Farncombe Down Stables close to his former base at Kingwood House on the edge of the village.
Despite the challenging times, Burrows, who started training in 2016 having previously served as assistant to Sir Michael Stoute, has already enjoyed several winners including landing the Group Two Dubai City Of Gold at Meydan with Hukum back in March.
Having been back among the winners recently in Britain the father-of-two now hopes the son of Sea The Stars can, as he so often has in recent seasons, give Burrows another moment to savour by making his third start at the top table a triumphant one.
He said: “We knew September time things were going to be massively reduced so it was a tough winter and it was tough seeing nice horses that we sold being successful elsewhere.
“I quite naively went to the sales in Newmarket with a view to trying back three or four and I came back empty handed.
“We were in a very fortunate position over the years. Angus (Gold, racing manager to Shadwell Estates) would value horses and wouldn’t pay over the odds but there wasn’t too many times when you would be outbid.
“I barely got my hand up here on this occasion and I was outbid so it was a reality check.
“It is a different job now, but I’m very grateful we are still on the list of the trainers that Sheikh Hamdan’s family have horses with as that is quite a kick for myself.
“It has been a big change for myself and my family and it was a tough time and it wasn’t nice but we are well aware it had to be done and we are thankful that we are still here.
“As regards to Hukum, he has been in good form since he came back from Dubai and I’m thrilled with how he performed out there. I’ve been pleased with his work since and it is all systems go for the Coronation Cup.
“Any horse that could win a Group One I would take but it would be very fitting if it was him as he was also my first Royal Ascot winner.
“We’ve had a few new misses in Group One races with Massaat, who was second in a 2000 Guineas and Minzaal was third in a Middle Park when things didn’t quite go to plan.
“Everybody judges you on success and it would be nice to be described as a Group One-winning trainer.”
With Hukum being the flagbearer for Burrows over the previous two campaigns he admits it would be nice for his stable star to finally secure a top level win of his own and step out of the shadows of his multiple Group One winning brother Baaeed.
He added: “He is in the shadow of his full-brother and it would be nice if he could tick that off for himself as well.
“He has won numerous Group races and for a trainer like me he has been a huge asset to us. It would be nice to get the Group One not just for myself but for him as well.
“In the St Leger as a three year old he probably didn’t quite get home and at Meydan in the Sheema Classic he was only beaten a length and three quarters.
“I know he only finished seventh but arguably it was his best run of his career beaten by the best in the world.
“Alenquer was only a head in front of him and he won Group One last weekend. The Japanese horses are immense at that sort of distance, Pyledriver, who was three quarters of a length in front of us we will meet again, so we have not got much to find.”
Following Saturday’s six-day confirmation stage, six horses remain in contention for the mile and a half contest. However despite likelihood of a small field Burrows is confident that it or the cambered track will pose any problems to Hukum.
He added: “The small field wouldn’t concern me. He is a five year old now and he is pretty experienced.
“You will have a fair idea from halfway if he is handling the track, but I’m not too concerned about that though as it is not like he is running there every week as such.
“He has probably strengthened up a bit more but he has always been a pleasure to deal with. You can tell when he is feeling well as he would let you know if he isn’t.
“His work is always to a decent level but he is not like one that flies up the gallops in the morning. He is another year older and wiser.
“His work on Wednesday was pleasing but he doesn’t leave his races at home.”
While Burrows immediate focus will be on Hukum, he will be keeping a close eye on the outcome of the Cazoo Derby after revealing that ante-post favourite Desert Crown nearly found his way into his hands at the 2020 Tattersalls October Book Two Yearling Sales.
He added: “It is all in the past now and we can’t change it but Angus (Gold) was the under bidder for Desert Crown at the sales for myself.
“Angus was down a couple of weeks ago not long after he won the Dante and reminded me of it and got his notes up from the sale.
“It could have been us but we can’t change the past and you can’t dwell on it.”
Although Burrows will have to wait at least another 12 months before trying to claim the Cazoo Derby he admits that there is no one else he would like to see win this year’s race more than his old boss.
He added: “Sir Michael has had a tough couple of years and it would be a wonderful result. Similar to Sir Henry (Cecil) people don’t forget how to train racehorses.
“You can only train what you are given and for a Derby horse there wouldn’t be many better than him.
“Desert Crown was probably the most impressive winner of a Derby trial in the Dante especially for a horse so inexperienced and he can only improve from what he did there at York.
“It is nice that my old boss is training him, while James Savage, who is an assistant there now, is a good friend. It would be a brilliant result for him and his team.”
The Jockey Club UK Press Release
Photo: Hukum, (Courtesy of The Jockey Club UK)