William Muir dreaming of Classic glory as unfashionable Pyledriver seeks to provide the trainer with his first top-level success in the St Leger
- Pyledriver has added a splash colour to a disrupted season with impressive wins
- The unfashionably-bred colt aims to realise Classic dream in the St Leger
- He shares favouritism at 11-4 with Irish Derby winner Santiago
Some of the best Flat horses in Europe line up in some glittering prizes this weekend but there is little doubt that the most popular winner will be Pyledriver if he can land the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster.
The unfashionably-bred colt who no-one wanted when he was offered for sale as a foal has already added a splash colour to a disrupted season with impressive wins in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot and the Great Voltigeur Stakes at York.
The successes have been the biggest in the career of jockey Martin Dwyer since he landed the 2006 Derby on Sir Percy and led to owner-breeders Roger Devlin and brothers Guy and Huw Leach receiving and turning down ‘life-changing offers’.
Pyledriver has already added a splash colour to a disrupted season with impressive wins
The only disappointment came in the Derby when Pyledriver’s race was over virtually as soon as it had begun when he ended up in an impossible position at the back of the field.
The blip never dented the faith and confidence of trainer Willie Muir, who will once again be at the wheel of his horsebox when he drives Pyledriver from his 26-horse stable in Lambourn to take on some of the biggest operations in Britain and Ireland in the world’s oldest Classic race.
Muir also believes Pyledriver, whose sire Harbour Watch was a sprinter who only raced three times as a two-year-old and dam La Pyle a hurdler beaten over 70 lengths on her final race at Fontwell, will stay the St Leger’s one mile, six and a half furlong distance
Muir said: ‘I am looking forward to it. We are going into uncharted waters with the distance but people raised exactly the same doubts when we went from a mile and a quarter to a mile and a half. I am very relaxed about it.
Pyledriver shares favouritism at 11-4 with Irish Derby winner Santiago on Saturday
‘I thought we had a great chance in the Derby, and it all went wrong. We were the meat in the sandwich and got knocked out of the race. You have to get up and shake yourself down.
‘If it hadn’t happened, we would have placed if you watch him from a furlong and a half out. Some people thought I was being too bullish but his win in the Voltigeur proved it. The Derby was a disappointment but it was not a blip.
‘We’re not a fashionable yard but If we happen to win a Classic what an achievement for a small yard.’
Pyledriver shares favouritism at 11-4 with Irish Derby winner Santiago, one of the Aidan O’Brien three entries and the mount of Frankie Dettori.
Santiago subsequently finished third to Stradivarius in the two-mile Goodwood Cup but the race did go to plan with O’Brien reckoning the son of Galileo did a bit too much too soon when racing ‘a gear too high all the way’.
The way Hukum lit the line when winning one mile five and a half furlong Geoffrey Freer Stakes at Newbury makes it hard to believe he won’t stay and the Owen Burrows-trained classy Royal Ascot winner looks a big danger to all.
Best outsider could be David Simcock’s 22-1 shot Mohican Heights. The Derby did not work out for Jamie Spencer’s mount but he was previously an eye-catching third to Pyledriver at Royal Ascot.
Leopardstown’s Irish Champion Stakes, signature race of Irish Champions weekend, features the world’s highest rated horse in Charlie Appleby’s Ghaiyyath, winner of the Coronation Cup, Eclipse and International Stakes plus 2019 French Derby winner Sottsass.
O’Brien runs three led by last year’s winner Magical, the International Stakes runner-up, but Ryan Moore chooses to ride Japan, who races for the first time since finishing last of three to Enable in the King George.
Japan was subsequently lame with sore soles in both front feet.
Meanwhile, Tom Marquand rides Joseph O’Brien-trained St Leger hope Galileo Chrome after intended jockey Shane Cross was prevented from travelling from Ireland after a positive Covid-19 test.
Crosse was tested under the protocols required for travel to Doncaster and Dr Jennifer Pugh, IHRB Senior Medical Officer, said: ‘Shane was completely asymptomatic and was very surprised to learn of the test result. He was not unwell and hadn’t engaged in any high-risk behaviour. He is now in isolation for 14 days and has worked with us on identifying his close contacts.’
Marquand had been booked for English King in the Leger before that colt was switched to the Grand Prix de Paris.