William Muir felt “proud” of Pyledriver after his maiden voyage overseas produced a brave second-placed effort in the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday.
The four-year-old was noble in defeat when going down by just a length to Glory Vase, who was winning the race for a second time.
The only British runner in a field of eight that included Aidan O’Brien’s reigning champion Mogul, Pyledriver only gave best in the closing stages.
“My initial thought when they turned for home was that the French filly (Ebaiyra, third) was travelling very strongly, and then I saw her come off the bridle,” said Muir, who trains the horse alongside Chris Grassick.
“We were in a very difficult spot to see clearly what was happening, obviously we were in their country with Covid (restrictions) and we were given areas that we were allowed in. I didn’t see the other horse (Glory Vase) coming down the outside and inside the final furlong I thought ‘we’ve done it!’.
“Then the horse came over the top and your first thought is ‘ah sugar, we just got beat!’ but then you’re so, so proud.”
Glory Vase has form behind Loves Only You as the pair were the first two home in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in April, with the latter horse then going on to claim the Hong Kong Cup at Sha Tin on Sunday, the richest race in Hong Kong and the pinnacle of the meeting.
“The winner finished second to Loves Only You this year in a big Group One and he won this race in 2019 and broke the track record,” said Muir.
“He is a fair, fair, good horse and that’s why he was the favourite.”
The journey to Hong Kong was a first trip abroad for Pyledriver and his performance under such circumstances left Muir hopeful that there may be even more successful overseas runs to come.
“I’m very proud as it was his first journey,” said Muir.
“Your first run (abroad) is not your best run but I thought he ran fantastic, I was so proud of him.
“I knew he would fly fine but you don’t know how they’ll take it, you don’t know if they’ll drink or they’ll eat but he coped with all those things.
“People have told me ‘you wait until the next time you go, he’ll start to love these journeys abroad’.
“It’s onwards and upwards, we’re looking for the next race and where to go next.”
The Saudi Cup meeting is now under consideration, with his winter campaign intended to lead him to the Sheema Classic at the Dubai World Cup meeting in March before a break is pencilled in ahead of the British summer turf season.
“It could well be Saudi, there’s two races he could qualify for,” said Muir.
“Everything’s on the table, he’s definitely going to have a winter campaign and it’s going to end up at the Sheema Classic before he comes home to have a little bit of a break.
“Let’s keep our fingers crossed, we all know sport is a cruel thing at times but he loved it yesterday (Sunday).
“He’s taken it in his stride, if it does happen to be the Saudi Cup (next) that will give him a couple of months.
“He’s got plenty of time to freshen up for it so he should be spot on, then the Sheema Classic would be the big target after that.
“He’ll come back and have a little break before we get him ready for the King George or the Juddmonte, one of those two, before the Arc.”
Trips to Saudi Arabia and Dubai could prove incredibly lucrative for Pyledriver’s connections, with the son of Harbour Watch already earning almost £500,000 for his second-placed run in Hong Kong, more than the total sum of his British winnings combined.
“He surpassed it all with one second, if he’d have won he’d have got over £1 million,” said Muir.
“When would I ever have been thinking we were going to run for a million pounds? We were absolutely delighted and very proud, we have been from the day at Salisbury (his debut) because he never, ever lets you down.”