William Muir expects returning star Pyledriver to run a “big race” at Lingfield this weekend as he warms up for a shot at the Hong Kong Vase.
Pyledriver, who was last seen on track when winning the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June, has been out of action since picking up a “freak injury” in the days before an intended run in the King George at Ascot.
The former Royal Ascot winner is set to reappear in the Listed Churchill Stakes on Saturday, live on Sky Sports Racing, before chasing huge prize money overseas.
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Explaining Pyledriver’s journey back, Muir told Sky Sports Racing: “He won the Coronation Cup and we gave him a little bit of a freshen up because we were heading for the King George at Ascot. The Saturday before that his work unbelievable, he was in such great form.
“He came back to his stable, jumped and kicked, but slipped and tweaked a muscle up high and it bled and ran down to his groin. It was a freak accident.
“We had to then wait and tried to come back for the Juddmonte. He was 100 per cent sound, but my vet felt that if we had gone there we might have done some more damage.
Pyledriver (far side) beats Al Aasy in the Coronation Cup at Epsom
“We gave him the time off because the winter was always a big window in our campaign for him. This just brought his holiday forward.
“We were going to head to Germany last week to run in the race Sir Mark [Prescott] won with his good filly [Alpinista] but we just felt he wasn’t 100 per cent and would put everything down, which might leave its mark for Hong Kong.”
Despite Saturday’s contest being an obvious prep race for bigger targets, Pyledriver is early favourite as he steps out of Group company for the first time since September 2019.
Trainer William Muir poses with Pyledriver after victory at Royal Ascot last year
“He’s had a spin around Newbury, which he did as well as ever,” Muir said.
“This race is a prep race for Hong Kong and he’s not tuned up to the nines, similarly to when he ran at Newmarket before the Coronation Cup.
“He’ll run a big race. I was quite prepared to drop back to a mile-and-a-quarter in the Juddmonte so I’m not prepared to make a big thing about that, but our ideal trip is a mile-and-four-furlongs.
“The other horses have been racing all season so they’re race-hardened.”
If all goes well at Lingfield, it should kick-start a busy winter campaign for Muir’s stable star – trained in partnership with Chris Grassick – as connections plot a route to Riyadh and Meydan.
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“He’s staying around, probably for another two years. Our plan is to go [Lingfield] Saturday, Hong Kong, Saudi Cup and then the Sheema Classic,” Muir said.
“This is what dreams are made of, especially for a yard like ours. We’re always looking to buy these, but you can’t afford them until one slips through the net that not everybody has noticed.
“The owners have been fantastic because they’ve been offered fortunes for this horse and most people would have to sell him. Instead, we’re going to enjoy him.
“I’ve worked with some very good trainers and this horse is as good as anything I’ve seen.”