ASCOT // Dubai drew first blood in the opening race of yesterday's Royal Ascot card as Ouqba crossed the line ahead of Deposer in the Group Three Jersey Stakes. Ouqba claimed the victory in the familiar silks of Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid, but the jockey that was on board was not Sheikh Hamdan's regular rider. Richard Hills' decision to spurn the ride on Ouqba, opting instead for the pre-race favourite and second Sheikh Hamdan-owned runner, Infiraad, cleared the way for Tadhg O'Shea to claim a maiden Royal Ascot winner.
Hills may be kicking himself now because after making the early going alongside runner-up Deposer, trained by John Best, Hill's ride ran out of steam, finishing last. O'Shea, who jumped at the chance to ride Ouqba, said he understood the tough decision Hills had made. "It's always nice to pick up spare rides but for Richard it was a hard situation. Infiraad has been nothing but impressive on the track and at home this year.
"My fellow was a little bit underrated, but it is fortunate it's worked out for me." Godolphin scored a good third with Frankie Dettori expertly coaxing Ashram across the line and saying afterwards: "I was pleased, he ran well. Seven furlongs or a mile suits him." Johnny Murtagh, notched two winners, the first after being reunited with Princess Elizabeth Stakes winner, Spacious, trained by James Fanshaw, and the second on Forgotten Voice in the Royal Hunt Cup.
That race - a straight mile for three-year-olds - was not without incident as Docofthebay reared and became tangled in the starting gate. He was released before the off, but he two other horses, Roaring Forte and Bencooleen were non-runners. @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org