Ground conditions will be crucial to Hukum running in Brigadier Gerard at Sandown
Hukum is set to face some stiff competition at Sandown in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes.
Owen Burrows will walk the course at Sandown on Thursday before deciding whether or not to allow Hukum to run in the Racehorse Lotto Brigadier Gerard Stakes.
Hukum is set to face a field that includes Desert Crown, last year's Derby winner - who is similarly due to make his return from a long absence - in a mouthwatering renewal of the 10-furlong Group Three contest.
However, the Lambourn trainer hinted that if there is not enough moisture in the ground, he could withdraw his six-year-old, who is scheduled to make his comeback after an injury which has sidelined him for 11 months.
Burrows went from the high of winning the Coronation Cup, a first Group One success at Epsom in June, to despair in the space of a few hours, when Hukum was found to be lame after returning home.
A year-older full-brother to the brilliant Baaeed, Hukum picked up a hind leg injury which required three screws to be inserted and it seemed likely he would be retired to stud.
However, he has made a remarkable recovery and Burrows is keen not to take any unnecessary risks with Sheikha Hissa's Shadwell-owned colt.
"Hopefully he can get back on the track," said the handler. "He seemed to have improved again from the year before and then he got that injury. It was hugely disappointing, but it doesn't do to dwell on things.
"It was a pretty straightforward injury. If he was a two- or three-year-old, then he would definitely have come back. There would have been no issue.
"But with him just winning a Group One, my automatic thought was that he would head off to stud.
"But Sheikha Hissa quite sportingly said that if there was a good chance of getting him back, then she'd be happy to give him a chance. Touch wood he's had plenty of time and we have had a nice preparation with him."
Though a winner of over £630,000 and successful in nine of his 15 starts, any plans to defend his Coronation Cup title on his first outing of the season were scratched.
Yet Burrows is well aware of the task Hukum faces on his return, which is a stepping stone to a potential run at Royal Ascot.
"We thought it was probably a bit strong to go straight back into a Group One, so this is going to definitely be a prep run.
"He needs to get out now. It is slightly concerning that we are drying up so quick, though.
"I wouldn't risk him on proper fast ground. Sandown's clerk of the course, Andrew Cooper, normally does a great job producing safe ground.
"I'll get there sharp and I said to Richard Hills (Shadwell's racing manager) this morning that we will have a walk of the track and all being well, if we are happy, then he will take his chance
"It's pretty obvious the task we face, though. Desert Crown was a pretty impressive Derby and Dante winner last year. There doesn't appear to be many chinks in his armour.
"He looks a relaxed horse who looks pretty solid, so it is a massive ask, but it is all about getting our fella on the track and getting a run into him.
"The Hardwicke would probably be the next plan, but I wouldn't be risking him on fast ground through the summer, so the back-end races and an autumn campaign could be on the agenda."