Setback scuppers Pyledriver’s King George challenge

Pyledriver has been ruled out of Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

Trained by William Muir and Chris Grassick, the four-year-old landed the Coronation Cup at Epsom last time out.

He had been among the leading fancies for the midsummer showpiece, but a minor setback will prevent him from lining up.

Muir said: “We did exactly the same as before the Coronation Cup – we went over to Charlie’s (Hills) gallops, and Martin (Dwyer) rode him – he was delighted with him, he went magnificently. It was not a hard piece of work, but the way he came through it was fantastic. I walked off the gallops thinking, ‘It will take a good horse to stop this’.

Martin Dwyer and Pyledriver after the Coronation Cup
Martin Dwyer and Pyledriver after the Coronation Cup (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

“I walked across to meet him coming across the road – he was bouncing and bobbing and kicking. I thought then this horse has never been better, I couldn’t have him better.

“He was washed down, put in the box, he had a roll, everything was fine. He never took a funny step anywhere, then in the evening my head girl rang me, I was at Newbury races, and said, ‘Pyledriver is just not quite right on his off hind’.

“My vet came out while I was still at Newbury, and he felt that he was sore up in the groin area and we were thinking could he have pulled his groin?

“The vet then came out again on Sunday morning, and there is obviously pain there.

“We are hoping it is a groin injury, but we are going to make sure we don’t leave any stone unturned. So we will X-ray his tibia – if there is nothing there, we will scan his pelvis. I don’t think it is (that), but it will put my mind at rest. Then we can go from there and will know it is soft tissue.

“You can’t have any setback to win a Group One – in fact, forget Pyledriver, if there is any setback, even if it is the lowest-rated horse in the yard, I won’t run the horse if there is any doubt in my mind.”

Muir will not rush his stable star back into action – and although next month’s Juddmonte International at York is an option, races further afield could also be in connections’ sights.

William Muir trains Pyledriver with Chris Grassick
William Muir trains Pyledriver with Chris Grassick (Edward Whitaker/PA)

He said: “I am not going to put the horse under pressure. If it is something simple, and we will know in three days, we will wait and go to the Juddmonte International.

“If it is something that we need to give him four to five weeks, then he will have his break and go to some of those races at the end of season – (the Arc, Breeders’ Cup, Japan Cup), there are so many options.

“The worst thing is if you don’t take notice of what you’ve got now, then all of a sudden you’ve got a serious problem. I can’t take any chances with any horse. I am always cautious, more than anything else. It is very slight, and he has never taken a lame step in his life. I am gutted to be honest.”

Muir was convinced Pyledriver would have had an excellent chance to topple the likes of multiple Group One winner Love and Derby hero Adayar at the weekend, but he is already eyeing a 2022 challenge instead now.

He added: “I thought he’d win it, to be honest, I really did. I know they are great horses – the Derby winner is a very good horse, probably one of the best; I am not even going to be part of it any more, it is tough.

“I have never been so excited about a race, Saturday morning, I was doing somersaults coming off the gallops. That evening it was just a strain driving back from Newbury. Have I slept since? Not really.

“It looks a fantastic race. Love is a great filly. The Derby winner was mightily impressive, but the ground is going to be different to Epsom – the ground wouldn’t have worried me.

“We have had a great run with him, not just this year – as a two-year-old, three-year-old and now. We will return. He will stay in training next year – we can go back for the King George next year!”

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