The Owen Burrows-trained Hukum could be heading for the top table in Flat racing if all goes to plan in the Dubai Sheema Classic on Dubai World Cup night this Saturday - the latest World Pool event.
The five-year-old was a last gasp winner of the Group Two City of Gold on Super Saturday at Meydan earlier in March, also a World Pool event, and has won five of his last seven starts in Group company but is yet to take a Group One.
Burrows said, “He’s only ever been in Group One company once and that was as a 3yo in the St Leger. I felt that he was one of the last off the bridle that day and didn’t quite get home. I know he’s won over 1m5f over the last year, but we’re sort of pitching him in here and this will tell us a lot about our future plans for the season. Whether we are talking about King George’s and Arc’s.
“I think he certainly justifies having a shot at a Group One and I’m excited about what he can do. He’s certainly earnt his shot at it, but these are the best in the world.”
Burrows is hoping that a slightly earlier start to the campaign for the son of Sea The Stars, who is drawn 11 in the Sheema Classic on Saturday, will give him a fighting chance after taking a few runs to get up to top form last season.
“We’ve been very pleased with him since Super Saturday. He’s come forward as we hoped he would, and I don’t want to tempt fate, but everything has been going very smoothly with him. He looks great so it’s all systems go for Saturday;
“In an ideal world I would have loved to have been in single figures (with the draw) because we got away with it in the City of Gold (drawn 14), but we are talking about a seriously higher level of horse now, so you need everything in your favour. It is what it is and we can’t change it, so I’ll leave all that to Jim and it’s his responsibility then.”
Hukum will face a talented 14-runner field on Saturday afternoon, one that includes Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Yibir and the recent Japanese Derby winner Shahryar, but Burrows is hopeful that his stable star can give a good account of himself on his way to more high class assignments this season;
“Japan are very strong in that division and come with a very strong hand, Charlie’s horse is a Breeders' Cup winner and Pyledriver is a Group One horse. It’s really strong all the way through, but if we can be competitive in this, it shows that when we get back home we won’t just be looking at Group Three’s and Group Two’s, we’ll have a pop at a few more Group One’s.”
There’s a touch of emotion attached to Saturday for Burrows too, because as well as being a chance to land a first Group One with Hukum, Dubai World Cup night falls just a couple of days after the one year anniversary of his late owner’s death, Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, who’s Shadwell colours Hukum will continue to run in this weekend;
“Without being too sentimental, it’s the sort of stuff that dreams are made of. You couldn’t dream for it to happen. Obviously I don’t try to look too far forward, but it was great to have a winner on Super Saturday but to do it on Dubai World Cup night would be something else.”
Runners ready to go for British Flat season
With Hukum set to lead the charge for Burrows back on British soil again this season, the Lambourn-handler gives us an update on where some of his other leading names could start their season.
“Anmaat had done a bit too well through the winter so he wasn’t going to be fit enough for Lincoln. I’m not 100% sure where he will start, he might go to Newmarket on Guineas day, there’s a mile and one furlong handicap there. He’s in good work but a bit like most of us through the winter, he’s done a bit well.
“Minzaal will go to York for the Dante meeting and the Group Two Sprint there. We are a bit light on the 3yo’s, but I’ve got a few to start sort of mid-April.
“We won’t be as busy as sometimes we were in the first part of the season as I’m a bit top heavy 2yo-wise, they’ll be more mid-season onwards for the majority of those.”