By Jon Lees
GB: Pyledriver has the G1 Hong Kong Vase and a tilt at the $20 million Saudi Cup on his agenda after making a winning return from a 162-day absence.
Last seen making his G1 breakthrough in the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June, he dropped in class and distance to capture 1m2f Listed Churchill Stakes at Lingfield by half a length.
The race is a fast-track qualifier for the £200,000 Betway Easter Classic on All-Weather Finals Day on April 15, but co-trainer William Muir has his sights set on an international campaign next.
“Pyledriver has never let anybody down,” he said. “He wasn’t fit today and we brought him here purposely to improve from it.
“Silvestre [de Sousa, rider of Fox Tal] wanted to go on and we got the perfect sit behind him. Martin said the gears our lad showed when they turned in…he was gone, and then he just got tired late on.
“He was 12 kilograms over his racing weight coming here today. It was the same at Newmarket at the start of the season, but I wasn’t worried he got beat that day because I knew he would improve. He has just given 7lb to race-fit horses and he wasn’t fit. It was a hell of a performance.”
He added: “Hong Kong is our main target and then beyond that we are looking at the Saudi Cup and the Dubai Sheema Classic. Why not have a go at the Saudi Cup? They reckon it is the nicest dirt track in the world. Ted Voute said it’s a fantastic surface and reckons this horse will love it.”
Winning jockey Martin Dwyer kept pushing Pyledriver after the line and around the bend because he was “only 80 per cent fit”
“I wanted him to get something out of it,” he said. “He has to go a mile and a half on the turf next in a month’s time. I wanted him to take his jacket off and do a bit of work today, so it means we don’t have to do tons with him between now and his next race.
“He is a G1 winner and a G1 horse. A lot of people have been following this horse over the last couple of years. He won on his debut at 50-1 and has been a real success story for his owner-breeders and the whole team.”
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