Champion jockey Oisin Murphy opened his account for Royal Ascot 2020 with victory aboard Sir Busker in the Silver Royal Hunt Cup.
A big field of 22 runners went to post for the straight-mile opener on day two of the showpiece meeting, with Maydanny and Ouzo the joint-favourites at 4-1.
The former managed to battle his way to the front in the group that raced on the far side of the track, but it became clear racing inside the final furlong that the near-side group held a clear advantage.
The William Knight-trained Sir Busker was a 12-1 shot off the back of a narrow victory at Newcastle a fortnight ago and finished with gusto to get up and score by three-quarters of a length from Salayel.
Alternative Fact and Almufti finished third and fourth respectively.
Knight said: “When he won at Newcastle that was my first runner from our new yard at Newmarket. That morning my father (Martin) died so this horse has a big emotional bond to me. Now I’ve had my first Royal Ascot winner he’s even more special to me.
“When I think about it I start choking up. My wife is from Newmarket and I had five years as assistant to Ed Dunlop in Newmarket and a load of my old mates are there. As my wife Emily said, we have been self-isolating for 14 years so it is nice to be back.”
He added: “I was quite happy he got in the consolation (for the Hunt Cup). In a normal year we wouldn’t have had this race so I’ve fluked a Royal Ascot winner.
“He’s tailor-made for these handicaps. The Balmoral at the end of the year has to be a target. He’ll go on soft ground.
“He’ll step up to stakes company as some point. but the handicaps have got such good pots. He’s a gelding so there is no need to get black type for him and we’ll go where the money is.”
Murphy said: “William said to ride him like Jamie Spencer, but I can’t ride like Jamie as he is masterful on that track here. I just rode him with loads of confidence and followed the right ones through.
“A lot of that was to do with chance, but the horse was in super shape.”
Of the action being behind closed doors, Murphy said: “There wasn’t the roar of the crowd we love and dream about, but it’s amazing. Royal Ascot is very important and to get on the scoresheet is important to me as a rider.”
Jim Crowley added to his opening-day treble by steering the lightly-raced Hukum to success in the King George V Stakes.
The Sea The Stars colt had made just two previous appearances for trainer Owen Burrows and owner Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum, finishing third on his Newbury debut in September before opening his account at Kempton two months later.
Pitched in against more experienced horses in this competitive handicap, the 12-1 shot travelled powerfully for much of the mile-and-a-half journey and knuckled down well at the finish to see off 9-2 joint-favourite Kipps with a little in hand.
Burrows said: “He’d done plenty of work. I took him to Kempton last week so he didn’t do too much. Jim rode him and was pleased with him. He was fit enough, whether he was going to be street-wise enough was the question.
“It’s a dream to have a Royal Ascot winner. I’ve not had that many runners here and certainly not many with good chances. It’s great to tick that box.
“He was originally entered in the Derby. Jim said he lugged a bit left there. Whether or not the camber would suit him, we’ll see.
“He did get struck into on his right-hind (leg) so we’ll have to see how that is. Hopefully it didn’t look too bad, but the vets were going to look at it once he got back to the stable yard.”
Crowley said: “We were lucky to get the splits and he quickened up well.
“We half-threw him in the deep end there after two runs. He’d been working nicely and there’s more to come from him, hopefully.
“We’ll have to speak to connections where we want to go with him. He’s a fine big horse with plenty of scope about him and he stays very well.
“I’m sure as the season goes on he’ll keep progressing.”
Fujaira Prince made a triumphant return after a year off the track when running out a ready winner of the Copper Horse Handicap.
The Roger Varian-trained gelding had been absent since finishing third at this meeting in 2019, but was sent off the 3-1 favourite and did not let his supporters down.
Varian said: “Well done to Andrea. He gave him a great ride. It looked a tricky draw (16), but he was intent on getting out and getting a position. He was able to sit second, one off the fence.
“The rest of it was pretty straightforward. He quickened up nicely in the straight.
“He’s quite a delicate horse and has not raced much for a six-year-old. To see him win like that it’s patience rewarded.
“The obvious race that springs to mind is the Ebor. Whether that’s his next race or not we’ll have to see how he is and see what else we might fancy and what the owner wants to do.”