Muir confident Pyledriver can emulate Enable in King George

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William Muir is confident last year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes winner Pyledriver is in the same sparkling form as 12 months ago as he bids to become just the second horse this century to win back-to-back runnings of Ascot’s prestigious Group 1.

The apple of Muir’s eye, Pyledriver returned from a long absence to win the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot last month and, according to his joint-trainer, is physically stronger than ever.

With the Derby 1-2, Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel, ready to represent the Classic generation on Saturday week, and Group 1 stars like Emily Upjohn, Westover and Hukum also on course, this year’s King George appears to have it all but nothing can dampen Muir’s enthusiasm for his dual Group 1 winner.

“He looks fantastic and I couldn’t be happier with where I’ve got him,” said Muir, who trains Pyledriver in partnership with Chris Grassick. “He came out of Royal Ascot brilliantly. I know people say he looked fit there but he wasn’t hard fit and he’s done everything we’ve asked of him since.”

Pyledriver had an away day at Kempton before his victory in the Hardwicke and was put through his paces at Newbury on Wednesday as Muir ticks off the days until the King George.

He said: “He had a little warm up canter then went back to the mile and a half start and just swung away. He was going a good pace and then took off in his rider’s hands from the furlong pole, which was fantastic.”

Pyledriver, 18-1 when successful in the race last year, is a top-price 6-1 to repeat the feat of Enable, who won the King George for a second in 2019 before adding a third in the following season.

Dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin heads the market at a general 3-1, with King Of Steel next at 100-30 and Coronation Cup scorer Emily Upjohn third best at 4-1.

Muir added: “He was in great shape going there last year but he’s every bit as good this time. I think he’s stronger this year. Physically he looks better and mentally he’s always been fantastic. It looks a strong field but my horse has looked good every time he’s run and I’d be as confident as any other trainer in the race.”

Owned by the La Pyle Partnership, Pyledriver returned from 336 days on the sidelines to win the Hardwicke having been given time to recover from a knee injury and Muir expects the improvement from that run to be appreciable. “His performance at Royal Ascot did surprise me a bit and he’s definitely come on from the race,” he said. “I hope he’s come on 10lb and I’d be delighted if he has.”

Beyond Ascot, Muir would love to see Pyledriver get the chance to tackle the Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe on the first Sunday in October and, while stallion duties are one option come the end of the season, Muir was not ruling out Pyledriver returning to the track as a seven-year-old next year.
He said: “After Ascot we’d like one more run before the Arc and we’ve got two options; either the Juddmonte International at York or the September Stakes at Kempton.

“The owners are such great sports that, if he had no more troubles, then they might say, ‘Do you fancy going again next year?’ It’s very flexible and I’ll always do what’s right for the horse.”

Courtesy of Racing Post