William Muir reports Pyledriver to be in “terrific shape” ahead of his comeback in the Betfair Exchange Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket on day one of the QIPCO Guineas Festival (Saturday 1st May), but admits his stable star will come on significantly for the run.
The Lambourn handler will revert the four year old back to a mile and a half as he bids to secure the third Group Two success of his career having scored twice at the same level last season in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York. He is the 2-1 favourite for Saturday’s contest with sponsor Betfair.
Although the Harbour Watch colt, who tasted defeat on his final two starts at Group One level last year in the St Leger at Doncaster and in the QIPCO Champion Stakes at Ascot, has appeared to show his best form on a slower surface, Muir is not concerned about quicker conditions on the Rowley Mile.
He said: “I’ve stated that this race was always going to be his starting point. He looks great and is in terrific shape. He is not going to be going there 110 per cent but he is ready to race and fit enough to go. He has done everything we have asked of him.
“I’m very lucky to train for some very good owners (the La Pyle Partnership) and they understand we have got to build him up and improve throughout the season. If he gets beaten by a horse that is fitter so be it and I can live with that. He seems a stronger horse both mentally and physically.
“If you look through his form he won on firm ground at Salisbury first time out at two then he won a Listed race on very soft ground at Haydock. I’ve never really got a problem what type of ground it is and is one of those horses that ground is never a concern.”
Having watched Pyledriver show glimpses of his talents when capturing a Listed contest at Haydock Park on his penultimate start as a two year old Muir was delighted with what he achieved last year with his Great Voltigeur victory a real highlight.
He added: “First time out at Kempton last year he was drawn in stall 11 which gives you very little chance but he was only just beaten by a nice horse to be fair.
“He came back out and did what he did at Ascot and in the paddock that day I thought he would win. At Epsom in the Derby he just got hampered early doors and it was a non-entity from there on in really.
“It was great when he won the Great Voltigeur at York. To me that was extra special as he gave some good horses five pounds and still won.
“It was purely and guts and class that got him to finish third in the St Leger and then he just never really got into it in the Champion Stakes.”
Though failing to feature in last year’s Derby a return to both Epsom Downs and Group One company is on the agenda for Pyledriver with Muir earmarking the Coronation Cup on June 4 as his next port of call after Newmarket.
He added: “Without a shadow of a doubt he will go back to Epsom for the Coronation Cup as long as he is okay.
“When he came down the straight after getting hampered early on he handled it okay. The track there doesn’t worry me in the slightest.”
Victory for Pyledriver at the weekend would also mark a first big race success for Muir since deciding to form a training partnership this season with Chris Grassick.
He added: “I’ve known Chris since he first came to Lambourn when he worked with Archie Watson and he seemed a really nice lad.
“Chris said he wanted to start training and he has got the attitude to do well but in this climate it is very tough to start training with single figures.
“I’ve been training long enough and it is nice to help people like Chris as we all need opportunities in life.
“Two heads are better than one and he comes from a family steeped in racing. There is a great atmosphere about the place and this will give him a good bit of experience.”
Pyledriver was one of six confirmations received today for the Betfair Exchange Jockey Club Stakes. Also going for the mile and a half contest are Al Zaraqaan (William Haggas), Bangkok (Andrew Balding), Pablo Escobarr (William Haggas), Sir Ron Priestley (Mark Johnston) and Thunderous (Mark Johnston).
Betfair odds: 2-1 Pyledriver; 5-2 Al Zaraqaan; 11-4 Sir Ron Priestley; 5-1 Bangkok; 7-1 Pablo Escobarr; 10-1 Thunderous