Pyledriver delights in Newbury spin ahead of King George defence

Pyledriver is fully on course for the defence of his King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes crown following a racecourse gallop at Newbury on Wednesday morning.

Trained by William Muir and Chris Grassick, the six-year-old has won eight of his 19 starts, but has been blighted by injury setbacks which have kept him on the sidelines at key moments of his career.

He conquered German raider Torquator Tasso to land Ascot’s mid-summer showpiece 12 months ago, but was then not seen for 336 days before making a victorious return in the Hardwicke Stakes.

Training well since that Royal Ascot triumph, he came through one of the final pieces of his King George preparations with flying colours at Newbury, with the countdown now on for the July 29 Group One.

“He just did want we wanted and we were delighted with him,” said Muir.

“It was not a serious, hard gallop, it was just a day out really. He goes to Newbury, has a warm-up little canter and then covers the distance, that’s all. He did great.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed and we’re in good shape. Fingers crossed we’ll be there at Ascot.”

Pyledriver has won three of his four starts at Ascot, with two successes at the Royal meeting accompanying the King George he has on his CV.

However, Muir believes that rather than being a track specialist, Pyledriver is simply a top-class performer who has the capability to thrive in all conditions.

He added: “Everyone says he loves Ascot but that is because it is one of the only places where the races are that we have run him.

“He has only run once at York and he won, same at Haydock, he’s both a winner and second in Group Ones at Epsom. I just think he’s a good horse. The races at Ascot suit him and that’s why we’ve kept going back there really.

“He’s extremely versatile – he’s versatile on ground, he’s versatile on course. He’s not one of those that you worry yourself stupid about what’s going to happen with the weather, whatever happens, happens, and you just turn up.”

Muir also delivered a positive update about Pyledriver’s half-sister Shagpyle, who started off with an eyecatching win at Ascot before being tapped for toe by a useful operator at Haydock.

“She’s fine and as I said when she first ran, she won’t be a filly who has too many runs this year, probably a maximum of four,” said Muir.

“She’s in good form and her work is totally different from when she started. Before she wasn’t strong enough to quicken and she used to just gallop away. We knew she was nice but we never put her under any real pressure because she wasn’t strong enough. Now she’s galloping really well.

“Her first run was really good, but it was on soft ground and she just got into that relentless rhythm and she was better in it than the rest. Then we went to Haydock where it was top of the ground and she didn’t mind the ground, but anything with a turn of foot quickened up and got us at it.”

The daughter of Frankel could head to Doncaster or Deauville for her next outing, while Muir isn’t completely ruling out taking up her entry in the St Leger later in the season despite envisaging it will be next term before she is seen at her best.

“If she were to win her next race easily and the ground was soft, then we would have one more run in a nice race and we’ve entered her (in the Leger) just to see what happens,” continued Muir.

“She is just a transformed filly from how she started the season and next year we will be purring about her because she will be going long distances.

“That’s why the Leger distance will suit her because she will get the trip, so although it is a bit of a throwaway entry, if we got there and it’s soft ground, you just never know.”

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