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Monday, June 07, 2021

Royal Ascot Return and Hardwicke Stakes the Next Step for Plucky Underdog Pyledriver

They used to call Pyledriver the horse nobody wanted. He came back from the sales as a foal unsold but has since done nothing but prove those in the ring that day completely wrong.

Pylderiver’s ascent to the top of Flat horse racing was complete in the steady rain on Epsom Downs, as he took the Coronation Cup – the only Group 1 race for older thoroughbreds during the Derby Festival. His first success at the highest level of the sport came in battling fashion apt for an animal who has seemingly been the underdog for his entire career. 

An unfancied 50/1 shot when making a winning debut for William Muir at Salisbury over the summer of 2019, Pyledriver has become the horse that has once again put jockey and trainer’s son-in-law Martin Dwyer on the map. Some black type towards the backend of his juvenile campaign with victory in Haydock’s Ascendant Stakes on Sprint Cup Day hinted at the ability this Harbour Watch colt had.


As a three-year-old, Pyledriver shaped encouragingly in a Classic Trial on his return to action before again defying double-figure odds of 18/1 in the Group 2 King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot. He may well be back there at the meeting when we next see him. 

The Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes over the same mile-and-a-half distance has conditions which prevent horses like Pyledriver, who have won at the top level, from carrying a penalty. Considering those favourable terms, he could well be a favorite amongst Royal Ascot day 5 tips and predictions for a card which also contains the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes sprint. 

In one of the strangest renewals of The Derby, where Serpentine had the run of Epsom Downs out on his own in front, Pyledriver was among those caught too far back last summer. He has exorcised those demons with Coronation Cup glory now, though.


A hammer and tongs battle with William Haggas improver Al Aasy, a horse seeking a hat-trick after two spring successes at Newbury in Group 3 company, provided the finish of Oaks day at Epsom. While Snowfall’s 16-length Classic romp stole all the headlines, connections of the plucky Pyledriver won’t mind passing slightly under the radar once again. 

Muir has mapped a plan out for his stable star, and the Hardwicke with its generous terms certainly figures in that. The biggest aim of all may be the King George back at Ascot in July. Pyledriver showed he could handle big stages last summer though, with victory in the Great Voltigeur during York’s Ebor Festival where again bookmakers underestimated him. 

He may not have stayed the St Leger trip or found autumn soft ground against him over a mile-and-a-quarter on British Champions Day, but a dozen furlongs bring out the best in Pyledriver. Much of the Hardwicke opposition come to the race out of form or looking for compensation, so the horse nobody wanted to buy could well leave them, and we’re talking about some powerful connections, out of pocket again.

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