Pyledriver To Skip Japan Cup And Hong Kong Entries In Favour Of Sheema Classic Tilt

James Mackie | @JMackieRacing


Multiple Group One winner and superb yardstick to William Muir & Chris Grassick, Pyledriver will skip his engagements in the Japan Cup and Group One events in Hong Kong in favour of a trip to Dubai for the Sheema Classic.

The now five year old has been a real success story for the fairly small yard over the last few years, making his seasonal debut in June 2020 when finishing second at Kempton, but since then improving with every run and showing he is a real black type performer.

He headed to Royal Ascot for his second start of the season and he was a shock winner of the Group Two King Edward VII Stakes.

The colt was given a Derby entry and went to Epsom but having being bumped in the big field early on he ran no race and as a far as Muir was concerned they drew a line through that run.

He proved how special he can be next time out when taking the Group Two Great Voltigeur Stakes at York's Ebor meeting, being eased down in the final stages.

The St Leger was next on the agenda and with many pundits fearing he would not stay, they were proved wrong as the three year old finished a length third behind winner Galileo Chrome.

Although seeing out the marathon trip his trainer believes he is best over 1 mile 4 furlongs, but he did not give his best running on his final start of that season when only seventh of 10 in the Group One Champion Stakes at Ascot.

Back for another term last year the son of Harbour Watch finished a decent second in the Group Two Jockey Club Stakes at Newmarket behind the smart Sir Ron Priestley.

With that run under his belt Muir, as ever, was bullish about the chances of his star in the Group One Coronation Cup last term at Epsom and in a very gritty fashion, he got back up late on when passed by Al Aasy to land the Coronation Cup.

Having a setback after that event he was next seen back in November winning the Listed Churchill Stakes over 1m2f and that was used as a prep run for his second in the Group One Hong Kong Vase.

Given a break again he returned in Riyadh at Group Three level and ran no race at all, but bounced back in a big way last time out in the G1 Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan where he was a close fourth behind some smart stars.

Sent to Epsom looking to retain his Group One Coronation Cup he was outclassed by the Owen Burrows trained Hukum, who found an extra clear close home to put the race to bed.

Running well in defeat the team were happy with Pyledriver's run and were bullish as ever about him for the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July even being the outsider at 18/1.

He went to surprise many and outrun those odds to win the valuable event and Muir had then nominated a go at the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe as his next event.

However, having skipped that engagement he was then nominated towards the Japan Cup and Hong Kong Vase, but the final decision has now been named not to travel over for those events and instead be primed for a crack at the Group One Dubai Sheema Classic.

(Credit ATR) “Pyledriver is absolutely fine and has been given the all-clear, everything is perfect,” said Muir.

“We weighed up the options of going to Japan or Hong Kong and decided to bring him back gently. Because it was only four weeks from now, we thought we don’t want to go straight into galloping, we want to canter away for a few weeks.

“So, following a meeting with the owners, we’ve decided to give him a little break and will give him one race before the Sheema Classic – Lingfield Derby trial or Lingfield Derby, something like that if he qualifies for it and then on to the Sheema Classic, that is the race we’re going to target.

“We’re definitely missing Hong Kong and Japan as it would have come too soon. We would have really liked to have gone for them to be honest, but the horse has to come first in every aspect, and it would have meant a week cantering and straight into galloping and we didn’t want to do that.

“He’s such a good horse, we thought let’s just let him have his break and we’ve then got all next year to race.”