The fairytale story of Pyledriver doesn’t look like ending anytime soon as the star six-year-old bids for a stunning King George repeat at Ascot on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing.
William Muir and Chris Grassick’s stable sensation was a promising if not spectacular juvenile before his career took off as a three-year-old, winning at Royal Ascot as well as the Ebor meeting before a good third in the St Leger at Doncaster.
Group One victory in the Coronation Cup followed at Epsom before a globetrotting voyage that including a lucrative second at Sha Tin in the Hong Kong Vase, a trip that co-trainer William Muir – alongside Chris Grassick – recalls fondly despite not returning with a success.
“Yes, it was Covid and we were locked in a room for 22 hours a day but we got to the quarantine barn and we got over for the one race and sent back,” he told Sky Sports Racing.
“It was a titanic performance – the Japanese horse was very good and he came down the middle of the track. The horse didn’t see him coming but he still ran a mammoth race.
“Then to go to Dubai in the Sheema Classic. Frankie [Dettori] came back and he got caught in a pocket, it’s nobody’s fault.
“He said it cost me two lengths and we were beaten three-quarters [of a length], we should’ve won. He just said we couldn’t get out and it cost us the race.
“It’s been fantastic. To travel around the world, to Hong Kong and Dubai and to be able to compete at that high level.”
Since then, he’s returned to his beloved Ascot with an incredible victory in last year’s King George, taking the scalps of this year’s reopposing rivals Westover and Emily Upjohn as well as the defending Arc hero Torquator Tasso.
The tale is more remarkable given owners La Pyle Partnership paid the relatively-miniscule sum of £10,000 for Pyledriver, having failed to tempt any buyers at the sales.
Since then, the six-year-old has collected close to £2m in prize money with two Group One victories, and eight in total.
“This is what you do the game for,” Muir added. “To get a horse like this, to prove that small trainers if they get the material, they can train the big winners.
“It’s all about fashion and we know that but we are lucky enough that the owners are great and put him with me and it was if we could win a little race.
“He’s won two Group Ones, placed in Group Twos, won Group Twos, been all around the world and you only dream of having horses like this.
“We don’t go to the sales with lots of money but we have bought a fair share of very good ones over my time training.
“Any trainer would miss him. They are very difficult to replace and if anyone had this horse, he’d be a massive loss to their yard.
“He’s a very special horse. I’ve said it before, he could go to Aidan O’Brien, John Gosden or William Haggas and he’d be one of the highest-class horses in their yards.”
‘He’d be known as a better horse of all-time’
As for Saturday’s big race? It doesn’t get much easier with this year’s Derby one-two in Auguste Rodin and King Of Steel, the last two Coronation Cup winners in Emily Upjohn and Hukum as well as 2022 Irish Derby winner Westover.
It’ll no doubt be a stiff test at Ascot this weekend but trainer Muir could hardly be more confident, and thinks success would secure Pyledriver’s spot as one of the greatest in recent history.
“He’s in great order. He’s in exceptional order. We haven’t had to do anything, it’s just been a natural progression from Royal Ascot to here.
“We’ve not had to do anything hard to stressful, he’s just improved for the room like you’d hope – I think he’s in good shape.
“How many horses have won back-to-back King George’s or two King George’s? He would have to be known as one of the better horses of all-time.”
Watch the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes from Ascot on Sky Sports Racing on Saturday July 29.