William Muir leads tributes as stable star Pyledriver is retired

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Pyledriver, winner of last year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Coronation Cup in 2021, has been retired after the recurrence of a suspensory ligament injury to his off-fore, trainer William Muir announced on Tuesday.

The six-year-old was on course to feature in Saturday’s Group 3 September Stakes at Kempton before a potential crack at the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe next month.

After a “pretty brilliant” workout on the gallops on Friday, Muir, who trains in partnership with Chris Grassick, started to have concerns when Pyledriver returned to the yard.

Muir told the Racing Post on Tuesday morning: “He worked superb on Friday and cantered on Monday, but when he came back on Friday he was a little bit sore in the same place where he got that setback in the suspensory ligament before.

“He was fine in the evening, and the next day, then my vet was in on Monday and we couldn’t believe it. I think there’s something which is niggling and it’s important we don’t do anything because we have to play the game properly.

“He’s not lame and he cantered on Monday, but we had a meeting and all made the decision. This horse has been so good to us and I don’t want to put him through something that could go wrong.”

Owned by La Pyle Partnership, the son of Harbour Watch won eight of his 20 starts, five of which were at Group level, and he earned more than £2 million prize-money. His final racecourse appearance came when finishing fifth to Hukum in this year’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July.

Pyledriver’s eighth and final success came at this year’s Royal Ascot as he returned from a 336-day layoff to land the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes.

Muir said: “We did everything we could and when we went back to Royal Ascot, we didn’t have a run for ages because we’d been minding him all the way up to that day.

“To go and do what he did was unbelievable. It doesn’t matter how long I train for, I don’t think I’ll ever see a horse do what he did considering the short amount of work he had before it.”

Pyledriver was 25-1 with most firms for the Arc at Longchamp on October 1, with the September Stakes expected to be his final run before contesting Europe’s richest Flat race.

Muir added: “On the gallops on Friday he was in tip-top form. He was fresh, he was well and he was absolutely bouncing – you couldn’t see anything better.

“If he was 100 per cent sound and was bucking and kicking, then we’d go to Kempton on Saturday and I would’ve said that it’d take a very good horse to beat him.

“However, if he went there and got an injury and tore the ligament or put more pressure on the other leg and broke it, then I’d walk away from everything. I wouldn’t be able to put up with it, so I think this is the right decision. He’s been such a fantastic horse for us all, but we have to do what is right for him.

“We’re in this game because we love these horses and I don’t want to see horses injured.”

Pyledriver has provided his connections with memories for life and Muir believes it is not just those close to him who will miss seeing him race.

He said: “I think he’s loved by a lot of people around the country, whether that’s punters and other people in racing.

“The owners have been fantastic from day one at Salisbury and I couldn’t speak more highly of them or my staff. The boys that look after him will be devastated because he’s a big part of our yard.

“He needs to go out at the right time and this is the right time. It would be such a shame if he were to go out after something had gone completely wrong or, worse still, loss of life.

“I could keep running him because he’s in fantastic form, but my instincts are telling me this is the time to retire him. I’ll always do what’s right for every horse, but Pyledriver has been so special throughout our career.

“We’ve now got to find another one and I’ve got to find him a stallion’s job – it’s onwards and upwards.”

Courtesy of Racing Post