Tag Archive for: Pyledriver

Pyledriver on course for Saudi Cup date

Pyledriver is set for more international exploits as he remains on course for a tilt at the $20million Saudi Cup in late February.

The five-year-old was last seen contesting the Group One Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin in December, a race in which he was beaten only a length by prior winner and favourite Glory Vase.

Trainer William Muir, who holds a joint licence with Chris Grassick, reported the horse to be in fine fettle following his exertions and a busy winter was pencilled in as the son of Harbour Watch missed a good portion of his summer campaign due to a minor groin injury.

Now the Saudi Cup plan is coming to fruition as the promise of more overseas riches beckons, with the Sheema Classic at the Dubai World Cup meeting the next intended port of call after Pyledriver’s bid for the world’s richest race.

“It was always our next step because he had all of last summer off and had a break, but it wasn’t like he was in his box and doing nothing,” said Muir.

“We couldn’t get him right for the Juddmonte International, so we gave him a break to bring him back for Hong Kong, then Saudi and Dubai.

“He lost a wee bit of weight coming home (from Hong Kong) but he’s put it on – and more – he’s not stopped or just been moseying around, he’s been doing two canters.

“He is thriving from going out and getting the sunshine and coming home, he’s absolutely thriving and he’s in really, really good shape.”

Pyledriver took the lengthy journey to Hong Kong in his stride and was evidently able to produce a good run after his travels, something Muir finds reassuring ahead of his next trip overseas to the King Abdulaziz racecourse in Riyadh.

“That helps, with him I can think ‘well that’s easy now, what’s the problem?’,” he said.

“That’s on the agenda to go there, that’s what we’re training for. We’re trying to peak for that weekend.”

After the Saudi Cup and Sheema Classic, the trainer is hoping to rest the horse and then plan a return to action on British turf, with races like the Juddmonte and King George on the agenda before the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe and an eventual return to Hong Kong.

Pyledriver following his Coronation Cup win last year
Pyledriver following his Coronation Cup win last year (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

“That’s where we’ll try to end up (Dubai), go there and come back home, have a break and see if we can pick him up for the second part of our season,” said Muir.

“Whether that will be the King George or the Juddmonte I don’t know, it depends which one comes at the right time basically.

“He’ll be back about then and hopefully we’ll do that and have one race before the Arc and then back to Hong Kong.”

Proud Muir planning more overseas raids with Pyledriver

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.”

Monday Musings: Overseas Despatches

Time was when a post-season challenge for the international races at Sha Tin racecourse was a fairly commonplace objective for high-class horses still in good heart, writes Tony Stafford. Four contests, each worth in excess of £1 million to the winner, were attraction enough. In the world of post- and apparently still-present Covid, things have changed.

Seven European-trained horses set off for Hong Kong at the end of their European seasons. None of the one French, two British and four Irish took back a victory from yesterday’s challenges, but such is the generosity of the prize pool, four will return with six-figure hauls.

Transportation difficulties have been a major adjunct to Covid times in all spheres with regulations for horse travel being especially onerous. That Willie Muir and joint-trainer Chris Grassick would have the foresight to send the partnership-owned Pyledriver for the Hong Kong Vase took courage and determination to see the project through.

Pyledriver didn’t manage to win, but in finishing a length second under Muir’s son-in-law Martin Dwyer to odds-on Japanese-trained favourite Glory Vase – it truly was a glory Vase for the winner! -  the Lambourn-trained runner matched anything he had ever previously achieved.

The second-favourite at 7-2, he lived up to that status, seeing off French-trained Ebaiyra to the tune of two-and-a-half lengths with Aidan O’Brien’s Mogul only sixth. In collecting £415,486 he easily eclipsed all the prizes he’d earned in his twelve previous starts, with five wins from his three seasons’ racing.

The equal youngest, at age four, with the other two Europeans, Pyledriver, who is still a colt – the winner is also an entire – must have more big pay-days ahead of him. Many plaudits, as well as Hong Kong dollars and other international currencies, can come the way of his entrepreneurial connections.

Only Mother Earth ran for European teams in the Mile and the hard-working 1000 Guineas heroine, coming on after Del Mar and the Breeders’ Cup, picked up fourth. That was worth £139k, supplementing Mogul's £37k for sixth in Pyledriver’s race. Ebaiyra picked up £188k for third there.

The Irish duo in the Hong Kong Cup, over 10 furlongs and the most valuable of the four races at £1.6 million to the winner, were unplaced, Bolshoi Ballet only ninth for O’Brien and Jim Bolger’s Irish 2000 Guineas winner Mac Swiney last of 12.

William Haggas, the only other UK trainer represented, did better, his Dubai Honour picking up £161k for his close fourth behind Japanese mare Loves Only You who was adding to her Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf win last month at Del Mar. Dubai Honour, under Tom Marquand, was running at least on a par to his second behind Sealiway in the Champion Stakes at Ascot last month.

I would imagine that Haggas and his horse’ s owner Mohamed Obaida will have pricked up their ears that Sealiway’s trainer Cedric Rossi, as well as Cedric’s father Charlie, who was Sealiway’s previous handler, and other members of the family have been arrested in Marseille in relation to enquiries into allegations of doping. Who knows, there could be some ramifications to come and maybe even a Group 1 disqualification in favour of Dubai Honour.

Back home in the UK, jumping continues apace but this past weekend must be possibly one of the least informative in relation to the Holy Grail of unearthing Cheltenham Festival winners. Indeed the two days of Cheltenham’s December fixture were more notable first for the astonishing level of demand for National Hunt stock at the Friday night sale at the track, and then for Bryony Frost’s absence from the meeting, than anything happening on the course itself.

True, My Drogo restored what in reality had been only a minor blemish on his record when smoothly erasing the memory of his earlier course fall to re-emphasise his candidature for the Festival, much to the relief of the Skeltons. Otherwise it was ordinary enough.

Bryony, cheered by the crowd at Warwick on Thursday upon the news of Robbie Dunne’s 18-month suspension with all four charges of bullying proven, was despatched by boss Paul Nicholls to Doncaster over the weekend where she had an anti-climactic two winner-free days.

I have been canvassing some trainer friends around the country and they have all noticed over the years instances of inappropriate behaviour by jockeys to female riders at different times. It may have been thought acceptable in the days when girls were far less commonplace in stable yards and on racecourses, but those days are long gone.

Now they are ever more prominent and respected thanks to the exploits of Hayley Turner, Josephine Gordon, Hollie Doyle and Nicola Currie on the Flat and in the UK Bryony and the Andrews sisters, Gina and Bridget, over jumps. In Ireland, Rachael Blackmore has picked up the baton relinquished by Nina Carberry and Katie Walsh and carried their achievements to unprecedented and unimagined heights.

In these days of improved nutrition and the resultant increasing in the size of successive generations more women, with their natural lighter weights have been needed to offset the scarcity of smaller male riders, especially for Flat racing. Some yards like Sir Mark Prescott’s would have to pack up – although his stable is a case of choice rather than necessity.

In those far-off days of Sir Gordon Richards and his generation, girl riders never got a look in and nor were they to be found too often in stables, despite their success at the top level in show jumping and eventing. Historic examples abound like Charlie Gordon-Watson’s sister, Mary, and Marion Mould, not to mention Princess Anne and daughter Zara Tindall.

In many other sporting spheres – football, cricket and rugby in the UK are the most obvious in terms of professionalism –women have become much more prominent and women’s golf has long been at the forefront of international sport at the highest level. Nowadays racing could not survive without its female participants.

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Yesterday when I heard the words “Tornado” and “Kentucky” in the same breath I confess I was instantly confronted by an image of flattened barns, devastated meadows - possibly already under snow as is often the case in much of Kentucky through the heart of winter - with animals helplessly strewn far and wide.

Kentucky to me is first Lexington and its stud farms - an area I’d visited so many times between the early 1980’s and 15 years ago. Second is Louisville, birthplace of Mohammed Ali and home of the Kentucky Derby. I’ve been there a few times, too.

The tornado which on Saturday came in at 220 m.p.h. and flattened a candle factory in Mayfield, trapping it was thought more than 100 workers – 40 apparently managed to get out – was centred near the western border of the south-eastern state. Lexington is way across to the east and 75 miles due south of Cincinnati on the borders of Ohio.

That south-western part of Kentucky is apparently tornado country, a manifestation that occurs when cold dry air meets warm moist air. The cold air is denser so it settles on top of the warm air and forces it to the ground where the tornado is formed.

While the terrible loss of life and devastation to people and their property is tragic in the extreme my initial dread I confess did concern the horses. I feared the tornado could have reached considerably further east – Mayfield is 265 miles south-west of Lexington – but that it seems was unfounded. These occur regularly in the region near Mayfield, though never previously with this intensity or effect.

Declared the biggest tragedy in the history of Kentucky by Democrat Governor Andy Beshear, a 44- year-old lawyer who won the state’s top job by 0.2%, you could imagine the initial worries in the stud farms of the region as the mares prepare to foal down their valuable produce in the New Year.

Sales prices have been booming. We have been here before when studs have been enjoying good times only for the hammer blow to fall. It only takes a little adjustment to make things less rosy. Like a misplaced tornado for example!

Dwyer sights set on Vase victory for Pyledriver

Martin Dwyer is looking to bridge a 17-year gap when he teams up with Pyledriver in the Longines Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin on Sunday.

Dwyer vividly remembers December 2004 when Phoenix Reach gave him a landmark triumph in the Vase and he is know hoping for a repeat in the twilight of his career.

“Breaking through on the global stage is a massive moment for any jockey,” said Dwyer.

“I’m not one for wild celebrations, but I did wave the whip after passing the post. Frankie (Dettori) came across to congratulate me and I just remember the whole trip as a mind-blowing experience.”

Now Pyledriver is the apple not just of Dwyer’s eye but of all the team at the stable of William Muir and Chris Grassick.

“The first day I really knew we had something special was when he quickened so impressively to win the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot last summer,” said Dwyer.

“We put a line through his run in a very messy Derby, but he destroyed his rivals under a penalty in the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York and he’s come back in great heart this year to win the Coronation Cup at Epsom and the Churchill Stakes at Lingfield last month.

“Of course, it was a blow that Pyledriver missed the summer with a muscle problem, but sometimes things happen for a reason and maybe the best is yet to come.”

Pyledriver lines up this weekend as the highest-rated horse in the field with an international rating of 121 and has beaten last year’s Vase hero Mogul in three of their four meetings, including the Coronation Cup.

“He’s like a schoolboy in class who has all the talent in the world but can look out of the window if he loses concentration,” Dwyer went on.

“There’s no way he would let me put his bridle on in a morning – and his groom Babu has plenty of bumps and bruises because of him – but that’s just Pyledriver. He knows how much talent he’s got and isn’t afraid to tell you.

“This might be the last time I get to ride in an Hong Kong international race. I hope it isn’t but you never know and that’s why this chance has to be grabbed with both hands.”

Muir relishing Hong Kong test for ‘perfect’ Pyledriver

William Muir is counting down the days to the Hong Kong Vase on December 12 following Pyledriver’s perfect return to action at Lingfield on Saturday.

The four-year-old had been off the track since winning the Coronation Cup in early June and he defied a penalty for that success as he made his comeback from an injury lay-off.

Pyledriver steps back up to that 12-furlong trip next month in a bid for more glory at the top level after taking the Listed Churchill Stakes was over a mile and a quarter.

“He was fantastic on Sunday morning. He moves so beautifully and he’s like a dressage horse the way he trots away. He’s got so much bounce – he’s perfect,” said Muir, who trains in partnership with Chris Grassick.

“He lost a wee bit of weight but I thought he would. He was quite over his racing weight so I knew it would bring him down a little bit. He’ll put a bit back on then he’ll level off as to where we have to have him.

“He was 12 kilos above his racing weight for the Coronation Cup. And he was heavier when he went first time out to Newmarket and I said to everybody it wasn’t my main objective and he went there at 480 kilos. On Saturday, he was 489.”

Muir had been worried the lack of race-fitness might prove the difference between victory and defeat following his long absence.

“He’s such a competitive horse. You knew he’d run well but you thought if anything catches him out, it will be the race fitness at the end against race-fit horses, but it just showed he’s still all there and he didn’t get hurt before,” the Lambourn handler added.

“That’s the good thing. He never got hurt when he had this little setback, and it was small. I tried to emphasise to everybody it wasn’t much but I don’t want to make it a lot. If you’d have kept going you may have got way with it, or you may have ended up having a fairly big problem.”

Muir is going to Hong Kong to supervise Pyledriver’s final preparations.

“Hong Kong Vase is next. His plane goes on December 3. He’ll have to have a few days in quarantine when he gets there. He can walk round and do light exercise in the barn or in the quarantine area,” he added.

“Then we’ll have three or four days before the race to do what we’ve got to do.”

Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver delights on Lingfield return

Pyledriver made the perfect return to action with a successful comeback from injury in the Listed Betway Churchill Stakes at Lingfield.

Absent since winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom in early June, the four-year-old warmed up for the Hong Kong Vase at Sha Tin next month with a pleasing display.

Pyledriver had to defy his Group One penalty, but strong late market support suggested he was ready to do himself justice. So it proved, as the 6-4 favourite put his rivals to the sword.

He was smartly out of the stalls for Martin Dwyer, although it was Fox Tal who soon took up the running. Pyledriver was always in the box seat after that and cruised into the lead on the home turn.

His lead diminished in the closing stages, but he was never in danger of being caught. Harrovian was beaten half a length in second place, with Felix a neck away third.

Pyledriver was well fancied for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July, but a late injury scuppered that option and the Harbour Watch colt had not recovered sufficiently to prepare for the Juddmonte International at York.

“This horse will never let you down. It doesn’t matter what ground, but he wasn’t fit. I left him purposely to improve,” William Muir, who trains Plyedriver together with Chris Grassick, told Sky Sports Racing.

“He jumped out, Silvestre de Sousa (on Fox Tal) wanted to go on and we had the perfect sit, but the gears he showed turning in – he was gone – and then he was just getting tired. He’d every right to.

“You learn to be patient and this is a good horse. Every Sunday I’ve been up on the gallops with him for the last five weeks.

“He’s not fit, he’s 12 kilos over his racing weight. I wouldn’t have been worried if he’d have got beat today. My aim is Hong Kong. We’ve got to take on some proper horses, but we’ve given 7lb to top 100 per cent race-fit horses today and we’re not fit. That was one hell of a performance.”

Good Effort recorded back-to-back victories in the Betway Golden Rose Stakes with another dominant display.

Ismail Mohammed’s six-year-old skipped clear of the opposition on the home turn and ran out a ready winner of the six-furlong Listed contest.

The 11-8 favourite, ridden by Jim Crowley, won by two and a quarter lengths from the strong-finishing Judicial, who grabbed second place with Soldier’s Minute just a short head behind in third.

The Showcasing entire is now unbeaten in four starts on the Polytrack at the Surrey course.

“He’s a handy horse. He gets a bit lonely and kills his race off the bend. Even there, I had to keep him up to his work because I remember in Dubai when Frankie (Dettori) rode him he pulled up in front and just got caught,” said Crowley.

“He’s one of those horses who wins his races at halfway. He’s very fast, five furlongs or six, he’s got enough boot for both.

“He’s won in France and has run well in Dubai. He didn’t run too badly in Belmont last time. It didn’t work out for him. They went slow for an American race, which is unusual. He’s a grand servant.

“He’s a very quick horse. It will take a very quick one to beat him round here.”

Pyledriver camp choose Lingfield for return

Racegoers at Lingfield will be in for a treat when Coronation Cup winner Pyledriver struts his stuff in the Betway Churchill Stakes at the weekend.

The Group One scorer had been in the mix for a top-level race in Germany, but he has been off the track since beating Al Aasy at Epsom in June, and William Muir – who trains the four-year-old in partnership with Chris Grassick – decided he would be better suited to staying at home as he prepares for his main aim, the Hong Kong Vase.

After Pyledriver goes to Hong Kong, Muir plans to rack up plenty more air miles – with targets in Saudi Arabia and Dubai also on the horizon.

He said: “We decided after Martin (Dwyer) rode him on Tuesday not to go to Germany.

“Martin asked what our target was – I told him the Hong Kong Vase, and he said that he’d run well in Germany but he’d come on for the run.

“The train we’d planned to take was cancelled, so we’d have to have gone via ferry and we thought we’d go to Lingfield on Saturday instead. While that is not his ideal trip (10 furlongs), we’ll use it as a prep for Hong Kong.

“It’s the sort of thing the big trainers do quite often, run them over a trip short of their best so it doesn’t push them as much. He’ll give everything, as he always does, but Martin felt a run would put him spot on – and he said he’s never felt as strong.

“It was only a minor setback he had – we went through the exact programme the vet said, and we’ve not had a hiccup or anything. But our main target had to be the Hong Kong Vase, and then his winter campaign starts, Saudi in February and then Dubai – three very big races.”

He added: “To have started off throwing him straight back into a Group One may have been tough on him. I was also worried about the ground, but in fairness it’s good out there. I think he’d have gone close if we’d gone, but Martin just felt he’d come on for a run.

“He’s won a Group One. He’s going to be a horse to campaign all around the world now.  Had it been a week later, I might have gone to Germany, but I’m looking forward to Lingfield now.”

Potential German target for Pyledriver before Hong Kong

William Muir has set his sights on the end of the year for Pyledriver, with options abroad in focus.

A minor setback kept the Coronation Cup winner firstly out of the King George at Ascot and more recently the Juddmonte International at York.

Muir, who trains the four-year-old in partnership with Chris Grassick, has been at pains not to rush him back – and as a result has taken Champions Day and the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe off the menu, with a possible run in Germany on the cards.

“I’ll let him tell me when he’s ready. After York I said I wouldn’t set more targets and we’d just go easy for 10 days and trot for a couple of weeks,” said Muir.

Pyledriver (right) sees off Al Aasy at Epsom
Pyledriver (right) sees off Al Aasy at Epsom (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“I’m just going to take my time, it’s something minor but I want him to heal properly and not have any scars in his mind.

“He’s jumping out of his skin at the moment, he’s so fresh and well. I would say the first race we could think about looking at is on November 7 which is the last Group One in Europe (Grosser Preis von Bayern in Munich).

“I’m not saying we are definitely going, but it’s something we could look at before he went to Hong Kong.

“I just want to give him all the time he needs because we could start him back and if he was still feeling it he would accommodate for it and pick up a problem somewhere else.

“Basically he’s in wonderful form, he’s like a raging bull, but we’re tip-toeing along. He’s had his break and then we can see where we go.”

Muir and Grassick send an interesting runner to Goodwood on Friday in Country Pyle, a New Approach half-sister to Pyledriver who was a promising second on her debut at Newbury.

“I think she’s a very nice filly, but she’s probably weaker and taller than he was at this age,” said Muir.

“She’s been brought along gently, she was too weak to run at two but she ran a lovely race on her debut.

“Goodwood is a different type of track, but it shouldn’t be an issue. When Martin (Dwyer) came back after Newbury he said if you’d run that race again now that she’s had one, she’d be a different filly.

“She’s come on loads for that race, she’s switched on now and I’d be hopeful she can do a good job. I think she’ll be a very smart filly next year, but this is a year to build for next year.”

Muir forced to wait with Pyledriver and miss York

William Muir has had to rule Pyledriver out of next week’s Juddmonte International at York.

Muir, who trains the high-class colt in partnership with Chris Grassick, had hoped his stable star would make the Knavesmire showpiece having already missed the King George at Ascot.

However, a muscle problem which appeared after he won the Coronation Cup at Epsom is taking longer to clear up than first hoped.

“We’ve run out of time, we were trying to get his groin right, (but) my physio she’s very good and she said if I went and galloped I might put him back two weeks,” Muir told Racing TV.

“You got to be 100 per cent. I wouldn’t be going there gallop-fit, like I would have been going to the King George. We all had a chat and just made a decision – we’ll go again and when he’s 100 per cent he’ll be there to fight.

“It’s just frustrating as hell because you could drive upsides him, you can watch him trotting and he’s trotting out like a lion, but if you push these soft tissue things just a bit too quick you might go backwards. I might get a mental problem with him and he might think he’s always going to be sore.

“Years ago, when I first started out, I had Averti, and he pulled a muscle, and we just started to get back and we went a bit quick and then he did it again. It was pretty frustrating and it took me the next time before I got it right.

“When it came right he went on to do tremendous things, but you have to be patient and you can’t win these Group One races unless you are 100 per cent. I’m not where I want to be so I’ve got to suck it and see.

“He’s just been cantering away, quiet canters every day, and you drive upsides in the jeep when you think he’s moving as well as you can ever say, but you can’t see the little tear.

“The lads that look after him say to me ‘boss, he’s not quite right because he’s very quiet, he’s not biting us’. They’re brilliant, they know him like the back of their hands so it’s all little signs telling me ‘just take your time with him until he’s eating them again’ and then away we go.”

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!”

Pyledriver primed for King George bid

William Muir is delighted with Pyledriver’s preparation for this month’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes at Ascot.

Muir, who trains the four-year-old alongside Chris Grassick, reports the stable star to have done everything right since winning his epic battle with Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup at Epsom.

Pyledriver dug deep at Epsom last month to get the verdict by a neck and win his first Group One race.

“He’s in really good shape. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him,” said his Lambourn trainer.

“He’s never missed a beat – so a fortnight Saturday he goes to Ascot for the King George.”

Pyledriver in great heart with sights set on King George

Pyledriver is on track for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes after missing a Royal Ascot engagement to focus on the race.

The colt was last seen triumphing in Epsom’s Coronation Cup, crossing the line a neck ahead of 7-4 favourite and runner-up Al Aasy after a terrific battle.

A run in the Hardwicke Stakes at the Royal meeting was considered after the victory, but trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick opted to sidestep the meeting and give the four-year-old chance to fully recuperate.

Pyledriver’s recent work has suggested to Muir that the two-week turnaround would not have been an issue, but the handler is glad that he choose to forgo the Royal meeting and prioritise his longevity throughout the season.

“After his run at Epsom I thought we’d had a hard race and I thought it (Royal Ascot) might come a bit quick, so I made a conscious decision that I didn’t want to run him after a hard race,” said Muir.

“Then come confirmation time he was nearly bursting the place open and I thought ‘oh goodness, what do I do?’ – but then I thought ‘no, stick to your original plan’.

“He could have run because he was really, really fresh and well, he was jumping out of his skin.

“I think he could have taken the turnaround, but I want to space these races out because he could go anywhere and if I run him too many times in quick succession, will we get through to the Arc and those type of races at the back end of the year?

Martin Dwyer celebrates with Pyledriver
Martin Dwyer celebrates with Pyledriver (Mike Egerton/Jockey Club)

“I didn’t want to punish him, he’s a very good horse and I want to train him as a good horse, which I always would do with any animal.

“I don’t want to just run him in and out because he’s not here for that, he’s a very good animal.”

Pyledriver will bid for a second Group One success when he takes on the King George, run like the Coronation Cup over a mile and a half.

“At the moment he’s like a lion, we’re going to go for the King George,” Muir said.

“He’s in really good shape, he’s fresh as paint.”

Muir and Grassick’s stable star has become one of racing’s most popular success stories, something Muir attributes to the tale of his failure to sell as a foal and the underdog status he has gained from being trained by a smaller yard.

“He’s very popular because he’s very eye-catching and good looking,” he said.

“He does what he does and people like the story with a smaller stable.

“He’s a horse that wasn’t worth anything and he’s graduated to be a star performer.”

Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver likely to sit out Royal Ascot

Coronation Cup hero Pyledriver is likely to sidestep Royal Ascot and wait for the King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Stakes at the Berkshire track next month.

Joint trainer William Muir had pencilled in the Hardwicke Stakes on Saturday week for his stable star, but is currently minded to shelve that plan because Pyledriver’s battle with Al Aasy at Epsom on Friday has left a mark.

“It took a bit out of him – he didn’t eat brilliant for two nights but he licked up last night,” said Muir.

“The first night he normally does leave a bit, but the second night he’s normally back on it, so it probably took a little bit out of him.

“He’s got a Group One now, so let’s hope we can keep going.

“Royal Ascot was going to be the next race. But he’s going to need to knock the door down for me to be going there – otherwise we’ll wait for the King George.

“If he comes mad fresh by Monday when the confirmation stage is, then I’d think about it.

“But it was quite a battle on Friday. He might just need longer than two weeks to get back to his best. There’s no point going there if we’re not over this race.”

Pyledriver digs deep to see off Al Aasy in thrilling Coronation Cup

Pyledriver battled back in the closing stages to deny Al Aasy and lift the Coral Coronation Cup at Epsom for his first Group One triumph.

Al Aasy headed Martin Dwyer’s mount in the final furlong, but Pyledriver (8-1) rallied in determined fashion on the rail to snatch the verdict by a neck for the relatively new training partnership of William Muir and Chris Grassick.

Dwyer made a brave move at halfway when he took the bull by the horns and sent Pyledriver into the lead after Highland Chief had taken them along.

Albaflora tried to put in a challenge, but it was Al Aasy who cruised alongside under Jim Crowley and looked like he could take the leader.

The 7-4 favourite did hit the front but, with the rail to help, Pyledriver regained the initiative in the dying strides, as the first two drew seven lengths clear of Japan in third.

It was a landmark success for Dwyer who has now won all three of Epsom’s showpiece events, after the Oaks on Casual Look in 2003 and the Derby on Sir Percy in 2006.

Dwyer said: “He really dug deep. It was a tremendous race to ride in and I’m sure it was to watch. Two very good horses drew clear.

“He deserved to win a Group One. He’s won two Group Twos and mixed it at the top level. We’re just delighted he’s won his Group One and hopefully he can do it again.

“It’s special. If you’re not fashionable it’s hard to get good rides. Sometimes you feel you are defending yourself if you don’t win. Half my worry was losing the ride on him. When it comes right and you win a big race, you enjoy it that bit more. I’m very excited. He can only get better.

Martin Dwyer returns victorious with Pyledriver
Martin Dwyer returns victorious with Pyledriver (John Walton/PA)

He went on: “It’s great. It’s getting harder and harder. All the good horses are in the hands of a very few trainers now and I think that is why people like to see horses like this fella, and with his sporting owners as well, as the underdog to have a go on the big day and achieve something.

“On a personal level, I’ve got to say there’s times when I’ve hated racing, hated it, had bad days and driven home in a bad mood.

“But days like this, I can’t describe in words what I’m feeling inside – it’s just euphoria.

“This is a wonderful sport – anyone can achieve things, great things. I’m nearly crying – what’s wrong with me?

“You have to fight your corner and when I was doing well, I was nicking rides off other jockeys and that is the nature of the game. That makes it more special when you win.

“I love this place. I always have. I’ve had some great times here. I’ve been lucky. It’s a very special place, but it’s not an easy place. Things can go right and things can go wrong.

“My horse dug deep and battled back. He does veer off a bit and maybe that’s something we need to iron out because we’re not going to get away with it forever.

“It worked today, we got the rail. You can’t question the horse’s attitude because he could easily have given in there. Jim had me tight and gave me no room. He didn’t lie down, he came back.

“I’m 45 and it’s been great this season with older jockeys like Frankie Dettori, Kevin Manning and Franny Norton winning big races. You can’t beat experience.

“While I’m still able to kick one in the belly and push one home I’ll keep going.”

It was also a famous first Group One for Muir, who said: “I started training in 1990 and I’ve got touched off smidgens in Group Ones. Stepper Point got touched off in two and Averti got beaten in a photo in the Prix de l’Abbaye. I’ve never had a Group One winner and this is it – this is what we do it for.

“I’m lucky I’ve now got it. Chris Grassick has only been at the job five minutes and he’s got a Group One winner! Well done to Chris as well, who has gone to Bath.

“I’m came here thinking he’d win. I had a meeting yesterday with the owners at a service station and we decided we were going to make the running and change the bridle.

“When he went to Newmarket, I was in no place to say he was 100 per cent, as today was the day I wanted to win a Group One with him.

“He was very brave. If you watch it from the outside people ask ‘why does he wander, why does he do this and that’. It’s just in his make-up, I don’t know why he does it, but he is brave.”

Asked about future plans, he added: “It’s mapped out all year – Jockey Club Stakes, Coronation Cup, Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and then the King George.

“I should think we’ll look at the Arc later on in the year, if we’re allowed to go with Covid and everything.”

Dwyer – who is Muir’s son in law – added: “It was a special moment. William has waited a long time for his Group One. We’ve come very close, beaten short heads in Group Ones and this lad has been a bit frustrating at times.”

Meanwhile, William Haggas said of Al Aasy: “He came to win and didn’t win. I’m disappointed he was beaten, but it would be very hard to suggest it was lack of resolution. He’s only a Group Three winner and he’s run a very good race to be beaten only a neck in a Group One.

“He’s got more to offer I feel.”

Crowley added: “Fair play to the winner, who battled well. Al Aasy just lugged down the camber a little bit, but he’s run a big race.”

Pyledriver on course for Coronation Cup bid

William Muir and Chris Grassick’s Pyledriver is primed to bid for Group One glory in the Coronation Cup at Epsom next week.

The colt was seen for the first time this season when finishing second behind Sir Ron Priestley in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on May 1, a race intended to prepare him for his long-term Epsom target.

The Coronation Cup has been on Pyledriver’s agenda since his successful three-year-old campaign, during which he enjoyed two Group Two triumphs in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and Great Voltigeur at York.

A Group One victory is now the chief goal for Muir, who trains in partnership Grassick and reports the stable star in fine fettle.

“Everything’s gone to plan – his work’s been great,” he said.

“He’s on target to go where we’ve said – right from day one, we’ve said that was his target, so he’ll go to Epsom a week on Friday.”

Muir was pleased with Pyledriver’s Jockey Club Stakes performance.

“He’s definitely where we want him – he was a horse that we were never going to take too much out of in his first race or really get stuck into him,” added the Lambourn trainer.

“You do take more out of them than you realise. But he’s right where I want him now, and he’s in great shape.”

This month’s downpours are likely to leave Epsom softer than usual for the Derby meeting, but Muir’s colt has form in testing conditions.

“The ground’s not a problem,” he said.

“He’s versatile and he can go on any ground you want.”