Following a tame effort in the Derby at Epsom, where Pyledriver didn’t handle the course or the race, it would’ve been easy to write off the prospects of this imposing son of Harbour Watch. In truth, many did, and he was allowed to go off at 10/1 for the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York last month.
Trainer and Jockey kept the faith in top talent
William Muir and Martin Dwyer didn’t lose faith however, and their belief in the horse was repaid in spades as Pyledriver ran out an impressive winner of the Group 2 contest, often used as a stepping stone toward the St Leger at Doncaster.
William Muir’s horses are often undervalued in the bigger races, but now he is responsible for the favourite in the last Classic of the season and the Lambourn handler couldn’t be more hopeful of Pyledriver’s chances: “He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and looked magnificent this morning. Even one of my fellow trainers commented on how good he looks.”
Pyledriver’s stamina doubts
Going over 1m6f for the first time, Pyledriver’s stamina has obviously been called into question, but again Muir is confident in his Group 1 hope.
“He does have gears, but he stays 1m4f really well and I think he’ll stay [the extra 2f]. He was strong at the line at York and it took Martin a while to pull him up. I’m not worried about the ground either, I think it will be perfect. He’s the first good horse I’ve had where I’m not worried about it being this or that, because I think he’d handle anything. He’s won on heavy and on hard, so the ground isn’t a problem.”
Whether Pyledriver stays or doesn’t, wins or loses at Doncaster, his trainer isn’t phased one bit: “If he doesn’t stay then it’s not the end of the world, we’ve had a go and we’ll drop him back to a mile and a quarter for the Champion Stakes on British Champions Day; that’s where he’ll go next in any case.”
Pyledriver “becomes a man” at York
How can you not admire this laid back approach to training a top horse? It should be applauded. With the likes of Mishriff, Magical, Kameko and others being geared toward the Ascot showpiece, Pyledriver would have his work cut out in that particular race though, however as time goes on, this horse is growing up and becoming a man.
“Martin told me he went to Royal Ascot a boy, but went to York a man and he’s growing up all the time. We won’t be taking him abroad this year as I can’t afford to have staff quarantined and things like that. All being well he’ll go to Ascot after Doncaster and that’ll be him for the year. I was never going to overrun him this year. Next year you will see the finished article.”
Pyledriver enjoyed a nice solo workout on Tuesday morning and is in peak form ahead of Saturday’s showpiece.
“He looked amazing coming back in this morning after his exercise. He did a bit of work last Friday and just did what he always does - goes through the motions and lobs along, but then quickens right to the top of the gallops. He just moves so well, he came back in with a lot of grace and presence. He’s fit and ready to go.”
Whether or not Pyledriver passes his Classic examination in the Pertemps St Leger Stakes on Saturday, you get the definite feeling that this horse has some big days in the sun ahead of him. With sporting owners and an enthusiastic, talented trainer - who isn’t afraid to try things - guiding him, Pyledriver is likely to develop into a very popular middle distance horse.
We wish him the best of luck on Saturday and of course, we look forward to checking in with William Muir before the Champion Stakes at Ascot next month.