Coronation Cup: Pylediver may defend Epsom crown as trainer WIlliam Muir ponders King George and Hong Kong options

Pyledriver could bid to defend his Coronation Cup crown, as connections mull over options following a luckless run in Saturday’s Longines Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan.

It was a case of what might have been for the five-year-old, who suffered trouble in running under Frankie Dettori, who was deputising for the injured Martin Dwyer.

The mile-and-a-half Group One contest looked at Pyledriver’s mercy as he travelled supremely well turning in, only for Dettori to find his path blocked.

For trainer William Muir, the run encapsulated a mixture of pride and frustration, especially following Pyledriver’s ungratifying run in the Neom Turf Cup in Riyadh, where he was 11th of 14 after being drawn wide.

“Obviously, whatever happened on Saturday, we were delighted we finished a length behind the winner (Shahryar),” said Muir.

“Frankie said, ‘I’m so sorry, I should have won. If I’d have got the split I’d have won. I never got the split, I’ve had to check his momentum, take him out of his stride and asked him to quicken again – and he did quicken again’. He said, ‘You were just unlucky in running and you have got a very, very good horse here’. I think he probably shocked Frankie a little bit.

“The draw was massively against us in Saudi. There was nothing wrong with the horse, he was in perfect shape, but the best horse doesn’t always win, just as in any sport. You don’t see the best football team win every time.

“It was just one of those things and on Saturday he ran out of his skin. We thought he would be bang there and we were. We are delighted.”

Pyledriver finished fourth in the Sheema Classic under Frankie Dettori on Saturday

Muir is now pondering future engagements for the son of Harbour Watch, who is likely to be kept at distances in excess of a-mile-and-a-quarter.

The colt’s owners, the La Pyle Partnership, are keen to head back for another tilt at the Hong Kong Vase, where he finished a length runner-up in December.

The Lambourn handler added: “I don’t think different surfaces are a problem to this horse. I think the thing that helped him on Saturday was it was a-mile-and-a-half, as I think that is his optimum trip.

“I am not saying he can’t win over it, because he has, but when you go back to a-mile-and-a-quarter, you are going over a shorter trip, you are stacked out wide and you don’t have the time to adjust as you would over a-mile-and-a-half. We’ll just put a line through Saudi.

Pyledriver (far side) beats Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup at Epsom
Pyledriver (far side) beats Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup at Epsom

“The owners, before we went to Dubai, said they would like to work back from Hong Kong, taking in the Arc and let’s say the King George, with maybe something in between.

“But I said, ‘If he comes back from Dubai and he is jumping and kicking, why don’t we try to win the Coronation again?’. He has got 10 weeks between now and the Coronation. He will have four weeks just moseying about anyway.

“He has had a couple of months off after Hong Kong and it is not like we have overdone him.

“I went down to the stable yesterday morning. His legs were great, he ate most of his food, he looked fantastic and I spoke to the boys this morning. He has put back on the six kilos he lost in the race, so it is fantastic.

Trainer William Muir is taking his time with Pyledriver as he tries to get the four-year-old back to fitness
Trainer William Muir poses with Pyledriver after his victory at Royal Ascot in 2020

“He was a horse who was always going to get better with age, because all his family does. They just improve and improve.

“Frankie, when he jumped off, said, ‘Run him in the King George, because that is your race. You know the track suits him, so run him in the King George’.

“The Coronation and the King George could happen. I was saying we could then miss one if we wanted to go back to Hong Kong.

“We will look at the races where the prize money is. Let’s be quite honest, we finished fourth on Saturday night, and we still won more than we would in the Coronation. There is lots of stuff to think about.

“Of course, we are delighted and gutted. That’s life. We wear long trousers. We have been in this game a long time now and have to take it on the chin. But when you think you pick up $300,000 and it would have been $3.4million if we had got our head in front, it makes a bit of a difference – particularly to a yard like ours.”

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