Owen Burrows has deemed the ground at Ascot to be too quick for Hukum and he will not run in the Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday.
The full-brother to the brilliant Baaeed bagged a Group One victory of his own in last season’s Coronation Cup at Epsom, but in doing so suffered a career-threatening injury.
He looked better than ever when defeating Derby hero Desert Crown on his return from nearly a year off the track in last month’s Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown – but Burrows insisted no chances will be taken if the ground was deemed unsuitable on the fifth and final day of the meeting.
Burrows stated he would walk the track before racing on Saturday but just after 7.30am confirmation came through that Hukum had been taken out.
With Hukum now not running, John and Thady Gosden’s Free Wind is around the even money favourite.
Free Wind has won her last four races for the Gosdens and saw off Wednesday’s Duke of Cambridge heroine Rogue Millennium in the Middleton Stakes at York, while the James Ferguson-trained Deauville Legend has been off the track since finishing fourth in November’s Melbourne Cup.
Pyledriver must overcome an even longer absence, having been sidelined by injury since his popular success in the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes over the course and distance 11 months ago.
William Muir, who trains the six-year-old in partnership with Chris Grassick, said: “Everything has gone good up to now and we’re looking forward to getting him started.
“As I’ve said all the way through, this is hopefully a prep race for the King George. It sounds stupid, but this will put the edge on him, which is what we want.
“I’ve got no doubt his ability is all still there, I’ve got no doubt whatsoever, but he’s been off the course for a long time and we just want to get through this race and move on to the next race.
“It’s a tough place to start, but what else have we got? As long as he goes through the race nice and comes home nice we’re laughing.”
The final afternoon gets under way with the seven-furlong Chesham Stakes Stakes, in which Navan scorer Pearls And Rubies is the likely favourite for Aidan O’Brien.
The Richard Hannon-trained La Guarida appears a major contender for the Amo Racing team, having built on the promise of a debut third at Newmarket with a taking victory at Goodwood on her second start.
“She did nothing wrong at Newmarket and then backed up impressively at Goodwood,” said Amo’s racing manager Tom Pennington.
“The form is looking all right now with the second, third and fourth all winning since.”
The Amo team also have high hopes in the Group Three Jersey Stakes, with Roger Varian’s Olivia Maralda bidding to supplement victory in the Listed Surrey Stakes at Epsom.
Pennington added: “She clocked a very good time at Epsom and I think at one stage she clocked a sub 10-second furlong. I know the ground was quick there and it is the right track to be posting those sort of times, but she has come out of the race really well.
“Roger is adamant she has improved again from Epsom. She hadn’t quite come in her coat then but she has thrived since and the warm weather has helped.
“I would say seven furlongs is her optimum, Kevin (Stott, jockey) is adamant that is the case and she will go there with a big chance.”
Varian also saddles the unbeaten Enfjaar and O’Brien is represented by highly-tried The Antarctic, but the clear favourite is the rapidly-improving Covey.
The son of Frankel completed a hat-trick with a dominant front-running display in the Silver Bowl at Haydock and is strongly fancied to make it a four-timer under Frankie Dettori.
Juddmonte racing manager Barry Mahon said: “He’s a very exciting horse and we look forward to seeing him out again.
“He looks to have plenty of pace for seven furlongs and he gets a mile, so the stiff seven in Ascot should be fine for him.”