Saturday’s King George VI And Queen Elizabeth Qipco Stakes produced a bittersweet result for Martin Dwyer.
Pyledriver’s regular jockey played a pivotal role in the five-year-old’s deeply impressive victory, despite being sidelined with a knee injury.
The Liverpool-born rider, who won the 2006 Derby aboard Sir Percy, tore his ACL after an iron leather broke on the gallops riding out for trainer Brian Meehan in April.
Stable jockey to joint-trainers William Muir and Chris Grassick, Dwyer is still instrumental in the Lambourn operation even though he is ruled out for the rest of the season following surgery.
“It was tough to watch, because obviously I’m watching it at home with a swollen knee thinking it should be me,” said Dwyer.
“But I’m delighted for the team. It was a great result and I’m pleased for everybody, but it does make it tough. That’s racing, isn’t it?
“I’ve been though it before. I’ve missed a Breeders’ Cup winner through injury and you just have to deal with it.”
Frankie Dettori deputised aboard Pyledriver in the entire’s previous two outings, when a luckless length fourth in the Dubai Sheema Classic before finishing runner-up in defence of his Coronation Cup crown at Epsom.
With Dettori claimed to renew his partnership with Oaks second Emily Upjohn, PJ McDonald, who had partnered Pyledriver just once before – winning on his third start – came in for the ride at Ascot.
Dwyer, who had ridden Pyledriver on 14 of his previous 16 starts, gave McDonald some valuable insight, which proved crucial as he strode clear to defeat Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Torquator Tasso by two and three-quarter lengths.
“It was great for everybody and was it great to see the horse perform like he did and PJ gave him a great ride,” added Dwyer.
“We had a good chat in the morning – we talked for about half an hour – and went through the race, as he was asking me what I would do.
“He could not have planned it any better, as it all worked out like we thought it would.
“We said that Ryan (Moore) would be keen to make the running again (on Broome), so let him – leave him room if he wanted to go past in the early stages, as it would be good for Pyledriver to have something to follow.
“We said that Colin Keane (on Westover) would have to make a decision on what he would do from stall six and he decided to go forward from there and ended up lighting his horse up and running too free.
“The writing was on the wall from a long way out for his horse. And it just panned out perfectly for Pyledriver.”
Though the race was bereft of Derby winner Desert Crown, who suffered a setback, Dwyer feels that Irish Derby winner Westover and Emily Upjohn gave the Classic generation strong representation, despite both being keen and failing to deliver their best.
“For three-year-olds to win a King George, they have to be really top level, which sounds stupid with (Westover) a Derby winner and (Emily Upjohn) an Oaks second. They are very good three-year-olds, but they were not quite good enough, were they?” said Dwyer.
As a result, the 47-year-old rider feels Pyledriver will not receive the credit he deserves, despite the midsummer all-aged mile-and-a-half showpiece appearing to be a renewal that was well up to scratch.
“He has beaten an Arc winner and Misriff is a proper horse who won the Juddmonte International by miles last year,” added Dwyer.
“He has finished ahead of Mishriff in the past and Pyledriver has been performing and running in the top races for a couple of years now. Horses like him are not going to be winning every race they run in, because they don’t do that unless they are Frankel or Sea The Stars. They come along every so often.
“He has been running with credit in some of the top races and is a genuine Group One performer.”
The devout Everton fan is now setting his sights on a return to the saddle with regular visits to Oaksey House, the rehabilitation and fitness centre in Lambourn, and is looking forward to getting back on Pyledriver should the opportunity arise.
“I’m going in the right direction but it is just slowly. The surgeon told me from the day of the operation it is going to take six months to get back and I’m only just over two months from surgery,” said Dwyer.
“I am where I should be. I’m doing all the right things and listening to the experts at Oaksey House.
“I’m still on crutches, but I’m getting close to weight-bearing and hopefully in another month I will be walking properly and the progression will be a bit quicker.
“I am out for the season, but I aim to get back at the end of the year.
“It would be great to get back on him, whether it is Breeders’ Cup or whatever – that has got to be my target. I am working towards it, but I’m not even at halfway yet.”