Pyledriver makes winning return in G2 Hardwicke Stakes
Pyledriver (7/2) returned with a bang for co-trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick in the G2 Hardwicke Stakes, providing rider P J McDonald with a first Royal Ascot winner in the process.
On his first appearance since winning last year’s G1 King George VI And Queen Elizabeth QIPCO Stakes, Pyledriver travelled smoothly into contention and went away from the opposition to score by just over a length.
There was a stewards’ enquiry after Pyledriver edged to his right but the result never looked in doubt. West Wind Blows backed up his Longchamp G3 win last time out to take second, a length in front of Changingoftheguard in third.
Winning co-trainer William Muir said: “I know how much this horse will improve. Yes he rolled around, but he was on fumes. There are loads of people to thank. The lad who looks after him, Pyledriver bit him today and he has got a great big haematoma on his arm, and he said it is “a love bite”.
“Jeta, who rides him, told me after his last piece of work that we were back to where we were before the Sheema Classic. I knew he was a class horse and I knew he would be competitive – he never knows when to chuck it in, but I did think match fitness might catch us out.
“He rolled around in the St Leger, and ‘they’ said it was Martin Dwyer, he is not a good jockey – I tell you Martin is a great jockey and made this horse what he is today.
“We will see how he is tonight, tomorrow, the next day – but the King George will be next all being well. This is what we dream to have horses like this. The owners were offered fortunes for him as a three-year-old, and they have been so loyal to the horse.”
McDonald said: “Pyledriver is a horse that when he hits the front, he always runs around. I thought when I came on the outside he’d be okay but, when I gave him a dig one side, he’s lugged one way and then the other. It just goes to show how much ability he has that he’s not concentrating on running in a straight line. I straightened him up each time, but I think he’s a very comfortable winner and I don’t think anyone can take it away from him.
“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. And what a performance to get this fella back today.
“I think they had him pretty fit. Today was only ever a starting point moving forward to the King George, so to get the win under his belt is a massive bonus. We have a superstar horse, I just need to keep him in a straight line!
“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 said of West Wind Blows: “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. I would say that’s his career-best performance and he really showed himself, up against some of the best horses over this trip.”
Changingoftheguard’s trainer Aidan O’Brien said: “He ran very well and we are delighted with his run. Where he goes next? We’re not sure. We will see how he is – obviously he is entered in the King George and all those races.”
4.20pm Hardwicke Stakes (Group 2)
1 Pyledriver (La Pyle Partnership) William Muir & Chris Grassick 6-9-03 P J McDonald 7/2
2 West Wind Blows (Abdulla Al Mansoori) Simon & Ed Crisford 4-9-03 Jamie Spencer 13/2
3 Changingoftheguard (Westerberg, S Magnier, M Tabor, D Smith) Aidan O’Brien IRE 4-9-03 Ryan Moore 7/1
7 ran 6/4 fav Free Wind (5th)
William Muir & Chris Grassick – 3rd Royal Ascot winner, including two for William Muir in his own name
P J McDonald – 1st Royal Ascot winner
Sectional times: https://royalascot2023.racenewslive.co.uk/sectional-times/