Willie Muir is confident he has Pyledriver exactly where he wants him as he bids to follow up last year’s success in the DahlBury Coronation Cup at Epsom on Friday.
With heavy showers over the past few days, easing ground should prove no detriment to the five-year-old, who was an unlucky fourth in the Dubai Sheema Classic, having encountered traffic problems under Frankie Dettori on his last run at Meydan.
Muir, who trains in partnership with Chris Grassick, said: “It was heavy ground last year. The first time he ran it was firm. He is the only horse who, when you go to bed, you are not thinking, ‘Oh, we’ve got a big chance, I hope it doesn’t rain’.
“If it pours down and it was heavy, it wouldn’t inconvenience him.”
Making his return after a two-month break, Muir insists the Harbour Watch gelding will not lack for fitness, having given him a recent piece of work at Newbury over a similar mile-and-a-half trip.
“I was buzzing after his piece of work the other day,” said the Lambourn handler. “I didn’t go to Newbury to break the land speed record. I just know how well he was when he went round that track.
“He finished full of running and I came off there buzzing, because that was exactly what I wanted – it was fantastic. He has come back and had two good bits of work since and is in great shape.
“If we are exactly where I think he is, then we are at the right place. ”
Manobo lost his unbeaten record when beaten half a length in the Group Two Dubai Gold Cup at Meydan in March over a two-mile distance that he failed to see out.
Though yet to tackle a top-level contest, his trainer Charlie Appleby feels the drop back in trip will aid his chance.
“He was lit up and keen, and over-travelling in Dubai,” Appleby told Godolphin.com.
“Prior to the Super Saturday when he won the Nad Al Sheba so impressively, I had toyed with running him in the City Of Gold over a mile and a half with potentially him stepping up to being a Sheema Classic horse, but a lot of that was being built around what Yibir was doing at the same time back in the UK.
“But he filled that slot for the Sheema Classic, so we stepped Manobo up in trip for the Gold Cup. He doesn’t stay a grinding two miles for sure. Dropping back to a mile and a half is not a concern for me. He is an exciting horse.”
Aidan O’Brien, who has won this race a record eight times, the last coming in 2017 with Highland Reel, is represented by narrow Tattersalls Gold Cup runner-up High Definition, who seeks his first success since his juvenile campaign.
It was a career-best effort from the former Derby favourite at the Curragh, only being caught close home by Alenquer.
His jockey Ryan Moore told Betfair: “You look at his record at this trip, and beyond, and he has his stamina to fully prove against guaranteed stayers, but hopefully he is the coming force in the race after his excellent effort in the Tattersalls Gold Cup and it won’t be any problem.
“That was a strong Group One, with State Of Rest and Lord North in behind him as he just got nailed close home by Alenquer, and that puts him right into the form mix here. There is no stand-out in this contest – for all last year’s winner Pyledriver probably sets the standard at his best – and you can pick holes in them to all varying degrees, so he certainly is in there with a live shot.
“The Curragh run was very encouraging.”
Owen Burrows saddles Hukum, who won the Dubai City Of Gold before finishing a close-up seventh off a muddling pace in the Sheema Classic.
“Since he has come back from Dubai I have been very pleased with him,” said Burrows.
“He was only beaten a length and three-quarters in the Dubai Sheema Classic and you could argue that was the best run of his life against top-class horses.
“He is a horse who travels through his races, and he is an experienced horse and he’s been around Goodwood, so I can’t be too concerned about the track. He is a well-balanced horse who travels strongly in his races, so I hope that will stand him in good stead.
Living Legend’s three-year-old campaign was prematurely curtailed by a serious tendon injury but has won his last three starts for Mark and Charlie Johnston, including the Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket in April.
However, the recent rain may play against the six-year-old son of Camelot, according to Mark Johnston.
“Obviously, we are not happy about the ground. It is a big disappointment for races like this when the ground is soft,” he said.
“Sadly it seems to be a trend these days with watering all the time leading up to these races and we have a few heavy showers and suddenly we have got soft ground. It is not ideal for either Living Legend or Royal Patronage (who runs in the Cazoo Derby).
“Apart from the ground, this is obviously a big punt, as we have supplemented him at a cost of £25,000, but the horse has done enough this year to warrant it.
Brian Meehan’s string in in fine fettle at present and the Manton handler feels Palavecino may be able to outrun his current odds of 80-1 following his all-weather success in a decent Lingfield handicap when last seen in January.
“He is fresh and well and got a great chance of being in the money,” said Meehan.
“He will be very comfortable around Epsom, as well, and he’ll be fine on the ground.”