Hukum firmly in St Leger reckoning after fluent Geoffrey Freer success

Sat 15 Aug 2020

Hukum moved a significant step nearer giving trainer Owen Burrows his first runner in the St Leger with an impressive success in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury.

The lightly-raced son of Sea The Stars had little trouble in backing up his King George V Stakes success from Royal Ascot in the Group Three contest over a mile and five furlongs – always travelling well just off the pace before ranging up alongside Max Vega just over a furlong out.

Once in the clear, the Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum-owned colt quickly put daylight between himself and the field under Jim Crowley to cross the line two and a half lengths clear of the game Max Vega.

Watch a full replay of how Hukum breezed home at Newbury

Burrows said of his 4-1 scorer: “Jim said he travelled very well, but they didn’t go very quick. He did mention that he thought he would be better going a bit quicker. He was just very impressive.

“He had never run on soft ground and until they run on it there is always that little worry will they handle it – but he handled it fine. He is strengthening as the year goes on and is very exciting.”

Hukum was introduced at 12-1 for next month’s final Classic at Doncaster by William Hill, while having initially gone the same price Paddy Power quickly cut him to 10-1 for a race which will now come under serious consideration.

Burrows said: “I don’t think he will go too much further, but there is the St Leger which has been spoken about. He has got a bit of speed. I don’t think we are necessarily talking about a proper staying horse. I don’t see him as a cup horse at all.

Burrows gives his view to Nick Luck

“I will speak with Sheikh Hamdan, Angus (Gold) and Richard (Hills) and make a plan. It is great to have one like him.”

Though Hukum’s latest victory may have only been a Group Three, the Lambourn handler believes he is up there with the best he has trained.

He said: “I was very fortunate early on to have Massaat who was placed in a 2000 Guineas, placed in another Group One and won a Group Two here. For the mile-and-a-half-type of horses he would certainly be up there with the best. Laraaib won a Cumberland Lodge, but this horse has got a bit of class about him.

“When I spoke to Sheikh Hamdan after Royal Ascot he was mindful that this horse will be even better next year.”

Earlier, Saint Lawrence appeared to appreciate a switch to front-running tactics as he got his career back on track with a tenacious success in the Denford Stakes.

Having finished fourth in both the Superlative Stakes at Newmarket and the Pat Eddery Stakes at Ascot, the Roger Varian-trained son of Al Kazeem finally added to his Redcar maiden success in June with victory in the seven-furlong Listed prize.

Sent straight into the lead by Andrea Atzeni, the 11-2 chance was not for passing, holding the previously-unbeaten 6-5 favourite Dhahabi at bay by three-quarters of a length.

Varian said: “I was initially disappointed at Ascot, but it was a funny race. Early on they raced in two groups and we followed the (John) Gosden horse and the (Owen) Burrows horse, who were the two market principals that day so you would say we would have position A.

“For whatever reason they folded early, which left us a little isolated and we had to join the main group and the winner and second had first run. I’m upgrading his run and though I’m not saying it cost him his winning chance, I thought he ran better than the bare result. He has always worked like a nice horse at home and we hadn’t lost faith in him.

“I’m pleased for the horse as he was one of the ones we nominated early on. Although he is by Al Kazeem he showed up well on the gallops and I thought he could be a Chesham horse, but we didn’t go down that route and he didn’t disappoint in the Pat Eddery or the Superlative.

“We had been taking him back and asking him to make up plenty of ground and we thought on testing ground we would make our experience tell. Andrea gave him a good ride from the front.”

Though plans remain fluid for Saint Lawrence, a step up in both class and trip could both be on the agenda on his next start.

He said: “I said to Andrea would he get a mile and he thinks he will. I don’t think he has to necessarily go a mile next time, but he has had five runs already. The Royal Lodge can favour experience and now he is a Listed winner we have got to aim at Group Threes and Twos. He will be better on better ground, but he coped with it.”

Andrew Balding earmarked next month’s Group Three Shadwell Dick Poole Stakes as a likely target for Alcohol Free, who made a winning debut in the opening division of the Unibet Fillies’ Novice Stakes.

Balding said of the 17-2 winner: “She looked a nice filly at home. That was our first two-year-old filly we have run this year. That was a pleasing start and she coped with the ground. It is nice, as it looks like we have a nice filly for Jeff Smith.

“Oisin felt that was right (six furlongs) for the time being and that she has a lot of natural speed. Jeff is chairman of Salisbury so the Dick Poole will be high on the agenda.”

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