Pyledriver springs surprise at Royal Ascot to enter Investec Derby picture

Tue 16 Jun 2020

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Pyledriver sprang an 18-1 surprise for trainer William Muir and jockey Martin Dwyer in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.

Having had the benefit of a seasonal reappearance at Kempton two weeks ago, the Harbour Watch colt leapt into the Derby picture with a solid performance.

Sound Of Cannons took the field along and was five lengths clear at one stage with the second Arthur’s Kingdom several lengths ahead of the rest of the field.

Dwyer made his move at the top of the straight and was soon in front. He kept up the gallop to win by two lengths from Arthur’s Kingdom, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Frankie Dettori.

Mohican Heights was two lengths away in third place, with O’Brien’s 10-11 favourite Mogul only fourth.

William Muir said: "We could have had a double! Both horses got led out this morning; I was there to weigh them. Jack's Point (second in the opening Buckingham Palace Handicap) came out of the yard like an absolute jumping jack, and he was 14, 16/1. By the time he'd had his lead-out and come back to his box, he was 66/1. I had to go home and look over the door and check he hadn't lost three legs! I thought, that's fair enough.

"And this horse [Pyledriver] is still a big, weak horse baby, he has progressed and progressed. It i only the last three days that he has come alight. I went to feel his legs the other night and he reared up on top of me, and I thought, 'you're coming now, you're getting your strength up'. I knew he'd stay, and he's got a turn of foot.

Pyledriver wins in front of an empty grandstand at Ascot
Pyledriver wins in front of an empty grandstand at Ascot

"I suppose we will have to think about the Derby. We have got two weeks and a bit longer. He's had an easy run there today - he has gone round in the slip-stream and just picked up. I thought we would run a big race, but there were one or two horses in here that were well-touted, well-talked about. Aidan O'Brien said that Mogul was probably his best Derby hope...

"So I said to the owners - they've got the mare, we've got a New Approach two-year-old, she's beautiful, going really nice, just gently until the back end, we've got an Oasis Dream yearling coming through, and a Frankel filly foal on the ground which is stunning. And the mare is in foal to Kingman, so we've got enough to come. I might have to keep on training now!

"Whatever he does, he is such an athletic, nimble, easy mover. You can never say that a horse will run at Epsom. But this horse has such a balanced way about him, I think he probably would handle Epsom. But you don't know.

"I actually thought last night, probably it will be just be our luck that we will have a winner tomorrow and no one will be there to see it! I told my owners - they live in Weybridge - that I'll be round for a barbecue. There's only two of them, I'm allowed to mix with two others, so I said get the barbecue on. But I've been told I've got to go to Windsor and saddle up there. I am a professional and I do it every time! This is fantastic. We'll be back here Saturday with Jack's Point for the Wokingham."

Dwyer, who won the Derby in 2006 with Sir Percy, said: "It's great to be here. Obviously there's no crowd and we haven't got the atmosphere, but a Royal Ascot winner is still a Royal Ascot winner. It's great to win on an improving horse.

"I was confident going into the race. I thought he'd improved from his Kempton run, there were only six runners and I thought we had the two Aidan O'Brien runners to beat. The ground was no trouble and he did it well.

"You never know if they'll handle Epsom until they've been there, but we know this horse stays, we know he's got a turn of foot and he'll handle most grounds. The track will be a little bit of an unknown, but what he does do really well is switches off.

"The crowd plays its part, but normally afterwards, when you're either fed up or over the moon because you've had winner. When you get on the horse, so much work goes into these races and you have to be so switched on and have your game head on."

Comparing the winner to Sir Percy, he said: "This is a different type of a horse. Sir Percy was ready two-year-old, whereas this horse was still weak. He's just getting there now and I don't think he's there yet.

"I thought I'd probably hit the front too soon, but when he felt the runner-up come to him he went again, which is a really good attribute."

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