Why $20m might not tempt Pyledriver camp

William Muir issued an upbeat bulletin on the condition of stable star Pyledriver on Friday morning when the trainer indicated a clash with Mishriff in the world's richest race next month was not set in stone.

The five-year-old's primary objective could be one of the Saudi Cup's support races instead.

Muir, who trains in partnership with Chris Grassick, this week entered Pyledriver in the Saudi Cup, which is worth $20 million and is staged on dirt, and the Neom Turf Cup, a Group 3 that also takes place at Riyadh on February 26.

The Lambourn trainer was always keen to make the trip in advance of March's Dubai Sheema Classic at Meydan, but is favouring the turf event, which has a prize fund of $1.5 million and may be a more suitable target for the son of Harbour Watch, who was last seen finishing second in the Group 1 Hong Kong Vase last month.

"He goes to Saudi and is in great shape," Muir said. "It's a prep for the Sheema Classic because otherwise, since Hong Kong, he's got a few months of doing very little.

"The turf race is a mile and two and a half furlongs, whereas the Saudi Cup is a mile and one furlong. I'm thinking of the best thing for the horse, but that's not to say he definitely won't run in that.

"He's got an invitation for both races and we could look at the Saudi Cup closer to the time when the field is clearer and think a little differently."

Pyledriver, who was third in the St Leger in 2020, is 14-1 for the Saudi Cup, while the John and Thady Gosden-trained Mishriff, who won the race last year, is 11-4 second favourite behind US colt Life Is Good (11-4).

Muir enjoyed his first top-level success in 30 years of training when Pyledriver captured the Coronation Cup at Epsom in June, but a groin injury disrupted the horse's summer and autumn.

"He's thriving, absolutely thriving," Muir added. "I hope, at five, he's reaching his peak and this could be a strong year for him."