Pyledriver returns in brilliant style to land Hardwicke success

Pyledriver once again showed his liking for Ascot when defying an absence of almost a year to win the Hardwicke Stakes.

The hugely popular six-year-old has been beset by niggling injuries since winning the King George V And Queen Elizabeth Stakes in July last year.

Winner of the King Edward VII Stakes at this meeting in 2020, he looked to have hampered his chance in the first half-mile by running extremely keenly.

PJ McDonald was riding his first Royal Ascot winner having replaced the injured Martin Dwyer, while trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick have worked wonders getting their stable star back to full fitness.

As if to advertise his superiority over his rivals, once he hit the front Pyledriver (7-2) wandered in front of Changingoftheguard and West Wind Blows but went on to cross the line a length and a quarter clear of the latter. A stewards’ inquiry was called, but the placings remained unaltered.

A jubilant Muir said: “He’s done two pieces of work with one other horse, but the last piece was so good it told me we were close to how we had him before the Sheema Classic.

“He’s been in the spa three times a day, a masseur has been over one a week and my vet has been fantastic. It’s been a real team effort.

“Martin Dwyer did a lot towards making this horse and he knows how he can roll around like he did today.

“It’s the one kink in his armour, but I knew he would go out there and die on his sword. And he did roll across the other horse, but the best horse won.

“I told PJ this horse will show you how good he is first time out, and whatever they say he finished in front.

“We will see how he is tomorrow and the next day, but all things being equal he will be back for another shot at the King George.”

McDonald – who won the Scottish National in his days as a jumps rider – said: “I haven’t sat on this horse since last year’s King George – the lads just said ‘you keep away, you’re better off not complicating things’. What a performance to get this fella back today.

“This is Royal Ascot… I’m 41 years of age and I’ve been coming here a bit, but you need a good horse coming here. There’s no point unless you have a good animal – whatever happens now I’m a Royal Ascot winner!”

Ed Crisford, who trains West Wind Blows with his father, Simon, said: “He ran an absolutely super race.

“I think there you can say he definitely stays a mile and a half, because there’s always been these question marks. But he kept running true to the line there and I would say that’s his career-best performance. He is a very exciting horse to have in the stable.

“We always had this race in mind. We thought we would take him to France to get that win into him and a bit of confidence into him, and he won well there, but he’s a gelding now and an improving horse.”

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