Hukum pips Westover in King George thriller

Hukum edged out Westover in a pulsating renewal of the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes.

A field of 10 runners went to post for the Ascot’s midsummer highlight and the mile-and-a-half contest was rightly billed as the race of the season so far.

Last year’s Coronation Cup hero Hukum was a 13-2 shot after returning from injury to see off the 2022 Derby hero Desert Crown in the Brigadier Gerard at Sandown in May.

Always travelling well in the middle of the pack under Jim Crowley, the six-year-old moved up to challenge Westover for the lead passing the two-furlong marker and the pair settled down to fight it out from there.

No quarter was given by either horse or jockey, but it was the Owen Burrows-trained Hukum who just found most for pressure to win a race for the ages by a head.

King Of Steel was best of the rest in third ahead of Luxembourg in fourth and the defending champion Pyledriver in fifth.

The disappointment of the race was dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin. The 9-4 favourite was trapped wide throughout, came under pressure racing down the back straight and weakened quickly before being eased right down by Ryan Moore, eventually passing the post in last place.

Burrows said: “I’m just speechless. He’s an absolute star, isn’t he.

“It is a big team effort – I have a great team behind me. My head lad rides him every day, John Lake.

“To be honest, we felt he has never been better, this season for whatever reason, he’s shown a lot more speed. But what a tough horse – and he had to be, because the second didn’t lay down, did he? He made us fight all the way.

“What a race. It lived up to its spectacle. I’m a bit hoarse from shouting.

“What can you say about him – he’s an absolute star. I can’t put into words what it means. I’m in my second season as a public trainer and we have a great team. The guys back at Shadwell rehabbed him after his injury at Epsom – 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 you think – hats off to Sheikha Hissa for giving him a chance.”

He added: “This horse has been a huge part of my career. He is 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, so to come back and so what he’s done is just amazing.”

An emotional Angus Gold, racing manager for owners Shadwell, told Sky Sports Racing: “Amazing, a huge, fantastic result.

“What a horse he is to come back from a serious injury, they did brilliantly at the stud to get him back, and Owen has been very patient with him.

“It means a great deal to Sheikha Hissa, with the horse bred by her father (Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum).”

Aidan O’Brien was at a loss to explain Auguste Rodin’s effort, with the colt beaten a long way from home.

He said: “There are no excuses. 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.”

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