Hukum’s jockey Jim Crowley is excited to be part of Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth II Qipco Stakes and hailed one of the deepest renewals in recent years as “great for the sport”.
The Group One Ascot showpiece looks set to feature Derby one-two Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel, last year’s Epsom hero Desert Crown, defending champion Pyledriver and the first two home from the Coronation Cup, Emily Upjohn and Westover among others.
The Owen Burrows-trained Hukum, who won last year’s Coronation Cup before injury sidelined him for a year, returned to defeat Desert Crown in the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown in May.
With the ground currently described as good, good to soft in places at Ascot and rain forecast on Wednesday evening, connections of the Shadwell-owned Hukum are growing increasingly confident that the six-year-old will handle the white-hot opposition.
Crowley is happier when he lets his riding do the talking and the former champion jockey knows the quality of the opposition could not be higher.
“All I can say is that Hukum is in great form. It is a very, very good race – the best King George I’ve seen on paper for a long, long time, and it is great to be part of it,” he said.
“The horse is in great form going into the race and that is all we can ask for. If he is good enough, he is good enough.
“It is great to be part of it and great to be riding a horse with a chance in it.”
Hukum goes into the contest as the winner of six of his last eight races. The two defeats came by a head to Hamish in the September Stakes at Kempton in 2021 and by a length and three-quarters to Shahryar in the 2022 Dubai Sheema Classic.
After making a pleasing return at Sandown and following sustained support in recent days, he is now vying for favouritism with Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel with some bookmakers.
Crowley has ridden in most of the top races around the world, yet sees the mile and a half midsummer spectacular as one of the most eagerly-anticipated in recent times.
“I’m the same as all the other jockeys, really – it is going to be very exciting for a lot of people to watch and it is going to be very exciting to ride in it, but on the other hand, it is very important,” he said.
“It is great for the sport – it is what people want, isn’t it? It is our version of the Arc.
“No-one is ducking it, so that means everyone fancies their chances. It is when they don’t fancy their chances they start ducking it.”
Crowley added: “We are very happy with him and very respectful of the opposition, because it is a very good race. Any rain would not be a negative, it would be beneficial to him.”
Hukum’s connections will be content, with almost their ideal ground conditions on the cards.
Ascot’s clerk of the course Chris Stickels is expecting overnight rain into Thursday.
Speaking at 4pm on Wednesday, he said: “The going is good on the straight course, and good (good to soft in places) on the round course. We had two millimetres of rain on Monday and have not had any since.
“We are expecting rain this evening and through the night. The ground would be getting quicker as we speak – it would be getting close to good to firm now in places – but obviously it is going to rain, so, we won’t see that change. We are expecting between seven and 15 millimetres.
“Until we get the rain we don’t know what the going will be but 12 millimetres will probably make us good to soft.”