Pyledriver sprang an 18-1 surprise for trainer William Muir and jockey Martin Dwyer in the King Edward VII Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Having had the benefit of a seasonal reappearance at Kempton two weeks ago, the Harbour Watch colt leapt into the Derby picture with a solid performance.
Sound Of Cannons took the field along and was five lengths clear at one stage with the second Arthur’s Kingdom several lengths ahead of the rest of the field.
Dwyer made his move at the top of the straight and was soon in front. He kept up the gallop to win by two lengths from Arthur’s Kingdom, trained by Aidan O’Brien and ridden by Frankie Dettori. Mohican Heights was two lengths away in third place, with O’Brien’s 10-11 favourite Mogul only fourth.
Racenews slashed Pyledriver to 16-1 from 150-1 for the Investec Derby on July 4.
Muir, who had gone close in the opening race of the day with Jack’s Point, said: “I read in the paper he was inconsistent, but he was just weak as a kitten last year. Whatever he did it was about this year, next year and a year on.
“I was quite confident this horse would run a massive race today as he’d really come to himself in the last three or four days – he just started to spark and show his well being.
“I did wonder whether we’d had enough time as it’s just under two weeks since he ran at Kempton, but he’s won tidy today and he can only keep getting better.”
He added: “I drove the box to Kempton and on the way back one of his owner asked if we could go to Royal Ascot and the Derby, and I said ‘that’s far too much to ask, we can’t expect this horse to do that’. Of course now, I think we can.
“I will monitor the horse. I’ve got three weeks to see if he does well and thrives. If he does well we’ll go there and if not, we’ll take our time.
“It’s fantastic for any trainer to have a Royal Ascot winner. Stepper Point got beaten a short head in the King’s Stand and we’ve had other horses who just haven’t put their head in front, but this horse hasn’t just put his head in front – he’s put his whole body in front! It’s a big, big day.”
Dwyer, who won the Derby in 2006 with Sir Percy, said: “It’s great to be here. Obviously there’s no crowd and we haven’t got the atmosphere, but a Royal Ascot winner is still a Royal Ascot winner. It’s great to win on an improving horse.
“I was confident going into the race. I thought he’d improved from his Kempton run, there were only six runners and I thought we had the two Aidan O’Brien runners to beat. The ground was no trouble and he did it well.
“You never know if they’ll handle Epsom until they’ve been there, but we know this horse stays, we know he’s got a turn of foot and he’ll handle most grounds. The track will be a little bit of an unknown, but what he does do really well is switches off.
“The crowd plays its part, but normally afterwards, when you’re either fed up or over the moon because you’ve had winner. When you get on the horse, so much work goes into these races and you have to be so switched on and have your game head on.”
Comparing the winner to Sir Percy, he said: “This is a different type of a horse. Sir Percy was ready two-year-old, whereas this horse was still weak. He’s just getting there now and I don’t think he’s there yet.
“I thought I’d probably hit the front too soon, but when he felt the runner-up come to him he went again, which is a really good attribute.”