Pyledriver digs deep to see off Al Aasy in thrilling Coronation Cup
Al Aasy headed Martin Dwyer’s mount in the final furlong, but Pyledriver (8-1) rallied in determined fashion on the rail to snatch the verdict by a neck for the relatively new training partnership of William Muir and Chris Grassick.
Dwyer made a brave move at halfway when he took the bull by the horns and sent Pyledriver into the lead after Highland Chief had taken them along.
Albaflora tried to put in a challenge, but it was Al Aasy who cruised alongside under Jim Crowley and looked like he could take the leader.
The 7-4 favourite did hit the front but, with the rail to help, Pyledriver regained the initiative in the dying strides, as the first two drew seven lengths clear of Japan in third.
It was a landmark success for Dwyer who has now won all three of Epsom’s showpiece events, after the Oaks on Casual Look in 2003 and the Derby on Sir Percy in 2006.
Dwyer said: “He really dug deep. It was a tremendous race to ride in and I’m sure it was to watch. Two very good horses drew clear.
“He deserved to win a Group One. He’s won two Group Twos and mixed it at the top level. We’re just delighted he’s won his Group One and hopefully he can do it again.
“It’s special. If you’re not fashionable it’s hard to get good rides. Sometimes you feel you are defending yourself if you don’t win. Half my worry was losing the ride on him. When it comes right and you win a big race, you enjoy it that bit more. I’m very excited. He can only get better.
He went on: “It’s great. It’s getting harder and harder. All the good horses are in the hands of a very few trainers now and I think that is why people like to see horses like this fella, and with his sporting owners as well, as the underdog to have a go on the big day and achieve something.
“On a personal level, I’ve got to say there’s times when I’ve hated racing, hated it, had bad days and driven home in a bad mood.
“But days like this, I can’t describe in words what I’m feeling inside – it’s just euphoria.
“This is a wonderful sport – anyone can achieve things, great things. I’m nearly crying – what’s wrong with me?
“You have to fight your corner and when I was doing well, I was nicking rides off other jockeys and that is the nature of the game. That makes it more special when you win.
“I love this place. I always have. I’ve had some great times here. I’ve been lucky. It’s a very special place, but it’s not an easy place. Things can go right and things can go wrong.
“My horse dug deep and battled back. He does veer off a bit and maybe that’s something we need to iron out because we’re not going to get away with it forever.
“It worked today, we got the rail. You can’t question the horse’s attitude because he could easily have given in there. Jim had me tight and gave me no room. He didn’t lie down, he came back.
“I’m 45 and it’s been great this season with older jockeys like Frankie Dettori, Kevin Manning and Franny Norton winning big races. You can’t beat experience.
“While I’m still able to kick one in the belly and push one home I’ll keep going.”
It was also a famous first Group One for Muir, who said: “I started training in 1990 and I’ve got touched off smidgens in Group Ones. Stepper Point got touched off in two and Averti got beaten in a photo in the Prix de l’Abbaye. I’ve never had a Group One winner and this is it – this is what we do it for.
“I’m lucky I’ve now got it. Chris Grassick has only been at the job five minutes and he’s got a Group One winner! Well done to Chris as well, who has gone to Bath.
“I’m came here thinking he’d win. I had a meeting yesterday with the owners at a service station and we decided we were going to make the running and change the bridle.
“When he went to Newmarket, I was in no place to say he was 100 per cent, as today was the day I wanted to win a Group One with him.
I should think we'll look at the Arc later on in the year, if we're allowed to go with Covid and everything
“He was very brave. If you watch it from the outside people ask ‘why does he wander, why does he do this and that’. It’s just in his make-up, I don’t know why he does it, but he is brave.”
Asked about future plans, he added: “It’s mapped out all year – Jockey Club Stakes, Coronation Cup, Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot and then the King George.
“I should think we’ll look at the Arc later on in the year, if we’re allowed to go with Covid and everything.”
Dwyer – who is Muir’s son in law – added: “It was a special moment. William has waited a long time for his Group One. We’ve come very close, beaten short heads in Group Ones and this lad has been a bit frustrating at times.”
Meanwhile, William Haggas said of Al Aasy: “He came to win and didn’t win. I’m disappointed he was beaten, but it would be very hard to suggest it was lack of resolution. He’s only a Group Three winner and he’s run a very good race to be beaten only a neck in a Group One.
“He’s got more to offer I feel.”
Crowley added: “Fair play to the winner, who battled well. Al Aasy just lugged down the camber a little bit, but he’s run a big race.”
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