Menuisier in no rush plotting route to Arc with Wonderful Tonight

Dual Group One winner Wonderful Tonight will not be rushed back into action this term, with trainer David Menuisier’s sights set on the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The four-year-old claimed a first top-level success when winning the Prix de Royallieu over 14 furlongs at last year’s Arc meeting before successfully coming back to a mile and a half to win the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot.

Menuisier and owner Christopher Wright had considered supplementing the daughter of Le Havre for last year’s Arc before opting to stick to distaff company – but the autumn showpiece is the ultimate target for 2021.

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With that in mind, Menuisier is in no hurry for a racecourse return, as he is keen to keep his stable star rolling once she does make her competitive comeback.

He said: “She’s back in training, she’s been back in about four or five weeks now, but we are just going to take our time with her.

“She’s not the kind of filly you can stop and start with. The classic French way to prepare for the Arc is to have a spring campaign, then a summer break and come back for the autumn, but once you get going with her, she really doesn’t understand the summer break.

“The idea would be to have four or five races in consecutive months leading up to the Arc, so we don’t want to run too early and because of that, I don’t really have any strong plans.”

Wonderful Tonight is entered at York’s Dante Meeting, as well as in the Cazoo Coronation Cup at Epsom, but conditions would have to suit before Menuisier would consider a run.

Wonderful Tonight and William Buick after victory at Ascot
Wonderful Tonight and William Buick after victory at Ascot (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

He said: “She’s entered in the Middleton at York next month and the Coronation Cup, but I don’t think Epsom would really be her favourite option unless the ground came up very soft. She’s usually a bit keen and even on good ground, I could see her doing too much down the hill there and not finishing her race.

“Anything quicker than good wouldn’t really rock my boat for her.

“I wouldn’t want her to have too many hard races on the way to October, although obviously as a dual Group One winner you are always going to be up against good horses, wherever you run.

“She will probably be entered in races like the King George and then we’ll just be hoping for a rotten summer! Even if the weather doesn’t favour us, we know we’ll have to run her somewhere to get her ready.

“There’s also options in France – the Grand Prix de Chantilly at the Jockey Club meeting would be one and the Grand Prix de Saint-Cloud is another.

“She owes us nothing though and we will respect her.”

Menuiser resists Breeders’ Cup temptation with Wonderful Tonight

David Menuisier is excited to see what Wonderful Tonight can achieve next season, after resisting the temptation to send her to America for next week’s Breeders’ Cup.

The three-year-old daughter of Le Havre has enjoyed a fantastic end to the European campaign, claiming Group One glory in the Prix de Royallieu on Arc weekend in Paris before providing her trainer with a first top-level success in Britain on Champions Day at Ascot.

With his star filly having taken those exertions in her stride, Menuisier hinted he had been slightly tempted by a trip to Keeneland, but he has decided to err on the side of caution with next year in mind.

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“She’s not going to the Breeders’ Cup – I don’t think it would be fair,” said the Pulborough-based trainer.

“If the filly was four and it was her last ever race, maybe we would have rolled the dice – but in this instance I think it would be greed.

“I would be scared to ask too much of her – and it’s a long way, especially to Kentucky because you have to catch a flight from Amsterdam to New York and then another flight from there. There’s no direct flight, so it would be quite daunting for a youngster.”

Menuisier already has the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 12 months’ time as a major target for his stable star, with several other top-level prizes under consideration between now and then.

He added: “It’s early days, let’s get through the winter and think about it next year.

“The programme will be written for her really, because being a Group One winner you don’t have many choices. Early in the season you have the Prix Ganay at Longchamp and the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket, and we’ll see where we go from there.

“We hope she’ll be running in the Arc next October – and before that you have either the Prix Vermeille on the Irish Champion Stakes, or there’s the big race in Germany – the Grosser Preis von Baden.

“How we get to the end of next year, I don’t know yet – it will all depend on the weather. If Royal Ascot is wet we could think about that, or there’s the King George at Ascot at the end of July.

“For the moment, we’ll reflect on how good the year has been this year, enjoy it and reload for next year.”

Wonderful result for David Menuisier

Wonderful Tonight backed up her first Group One success of just two weeks earlier with a determined performance to win the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot.

David Menuisier’s decision to run record producer Christopher Wright’s three-year-old so soon after the Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp was fully vindicated.

A brave move by William Buick to set sail for home over three furlongs out on the 4-1 favourite paid off, after Manuela De Vega had ensured a good end-to-end gallop.

Hollie Doyle – bidding for a sensational hat-trick after wining the first two races on Trueshan and Glen Shiel – gave chase on Dame Malliot, but had to settle for second place, two and a half lengths behind the winner.

Passion was a length back in third, with Mehdaayih two lengths away in fourth place.

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Menuisier said: “We know she is very good, the only question mark was whether she had recuperated from Arc weekend or not. I hadn’t, but I’m glad she did. She is top class all round. She is easy train, to be fair, and is tough as anything. She is getting better and better.

“There is still some improvement to come. She is a tad keen early on. Once she really knows how to settle I think she can go up a notch again. You never know with fillies if they will train on or not, but we wanted to keep her as a four-year-old to target the Arc next year.

“We nearly ran in the Arc this year and I think she would have run a stormer. She wasn’t a Group One winner, but now she is the sky is the limit.”

He went on: “We knew she was up to that level and we knew she could do it, but when you bring her back after two weeks you never know what you are going to find under pressure. She did give us the right signals, she was jumping around and squealing all week. It is incredible how hard she is. She keeps finding all the time. She doesn’t know what defeat is.

“I feel so lucky. We got her for 40,000 euros as a yearling and now she has won her second Group One inside two weeks. It is the stuff dreams are made of. When she ran on Arc weekend I couldn’t go as I was planning to go to Tattersalls (sales) the following week.

“I was actually a nervous wreck. I think I must have cried for half an hour non stop once she passed the line. Here, being on site, you feel a bit more in control. She makes me proud. Any horse at any level that tries their hardest you have to take your hat off.

“Managing to win a Group One on Arc weekend and here for a small stable is just fantastic. She is the legacy of seeds Thundering Blue planted two or three years ago. There is a bit of him in her being so tough. It was his trait to be very tough and he didn’t know what defeat was either.”

Buick said: “This filly, she’s rock solid. David was very confident beforehand, she’s just very straightforward. She’s proven on the ground and she stays well, so she ticks a lot of boxes and to be honest with you I’ve been looking forward to riding this filly all week.

Wonderful Tonight (left) is now a dual Group One winner
Wonderful Tonight (left) is now a dual Group One winner (Alan Crowhurst/PA)

“She was out on her own all the way up the straight, it’s a long, daunting straight no matter what you’re riding (but she was fantastic).”

Doyle said of Dame Malliot: “She has run really well. She was a bit keen early on, as expected. She has done nothing wrong in defeat.

“To be honest I followed the winner the whole way round. I thought ‘perfect, pitch here’, but Will pushed the button and he took a few lengths out of me, whereas she just stayed on the one pace.”

Wonderful Tonight in line for Champions Day appearance

David Menuisier is leaning towards running Wonderful Tonight in the Qipco British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot on Saturday.

With ground conditions set to suit the daughter of Le Havre at the Berkshire track, the Pulborough handler rates her a “60-40” chance of contesting the mile-and-a-half Group One.

Having finished fifth on her Group One debut in the Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp, the Christopher Wright-owned mare opened her account at the top level back at the Parisian track in the Prix de Royallieu.

Menuisier said: “She seems like she has come out of the Royallieu well. She is buzzing and feeling great, jumping around and kicking around.

“At the moment I’m 60-40 to give it a go. The ground is soft with the chance of a little more rain, then it is going to be dry for most of the week but I don’t think it will dry that much.

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“She seems like she will have all her conditions, but we will make the decision when we have to on Thursday. If I’m 60-40 now and all goes well over the next couple of days then we will run her.”

Looking beyond the end of this season Menuisier could give Wonderful Tonight a campaign geared around next year’s Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, after receiving the news she will stay in training in 2021.

He added: “She will stay in training next year and the aim could be the Arc. I think she could have been competitive in it this year in hindsight, but there is no point thinking about it now.

“The main thing this year was to try to get a Group One under her belt and the next year we can do what we like. She has definitely picked up the position of flagbearer for next season.”

Meanwhile, Menuisier is considering Group One options at Saint-Cloud later this month for Salisbury scorer Belloccio.

He said: “He will have an entry in both the Criterium International and the Criterium de Saint-Cloud. If is all well between now and then we will give it some thought, but if I have any doubts I will just put him away.

“Historically the mile-and-a-quarter race has been the weaker of the two and it has lacked a bit of depth and last year there were only two runners in it.

“I think he will stay well, he could have easily gone a couple of extra furlongs at Salisbury and he seems to handle soft ground.”

A trip to Newbury for the Group Three Cancom Stakes, better known as the Horris Hill, is on the cards for Autumn Twilight ahead of going under the hammer at the Autumn Horses In Training Sale at Tattersalls.

Menuisier said: “I think the plan for Autumn Twilight is the Horris Hill. I think it is a good spot. He is very genuine and professional and he goes on soft ground.

“He is entered in the sales after the Horris Hill and that could give us an idea of where we are.”

Menuisier ponders 2021 Arc after Wonderful Tonight’s Royallieu victory

David Menuisier has next year’s Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in mind for Wonderful Tonight, after she gave him a first Group One in his native country in the Qatar Prix de Royallieu at ParisLongchamp.

Menuisier, the Sussex-based but French-born trainer, and owner Christopher Wright had thought about supplementing the lightly-raced filly for Sunday’s showpiece this year – only to stick to their original plan, and see it come to fruition.

With just seven career starts to her name, the three-year-old daughter of Le Havre is set to stay in training in 2021 – and it is possible too she may run again this term in the British Champions Fillies’ And Mares Stakes at Ascot, after having her odds halved from 16-1 to 8-1 with Betfair and Paddy Power.

Wonderful Tonight was sent off the 7-2 favourite for the Royallieu, having won a Group Three race in Deauville and finished a creditable fifth in the Prix Vermeille last month.

Jockey Tony Piccone had her well-positioned just off the pace set by Frankie Dettori on Miss Yoda for John Gosden – with the Ralph Beckett-trained Manuela De Vega on his heels and Pista, trained by Joseph O’Brien, not far away.

Piccone made his move early in the home straight, and Wonderful Tonight kicked on over two furlongs out. She drifted towards the stands side – while her nearest pursuer, Pista, spoilt her chance by going the other way towards the far rail.

Wonderful Tonight maintained the gallop throughout the entire mile-and-three-quarter trip to score by a length and a quarter from Pista.

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The first two drew five lengths clear of Ebaiyra in third place.

Menuisier said: “I am so proud of the filly. She is very tough, and I think it was a well-deserved win, because she didn’t do it the easy way – she won the hard way.

“She was still a bit keen throughout, and I think it’s greenness. She’s not a filly that pulls or whatever. She’s still not the finished article. There is, in my opinion, bags of improvement to come in the way she does things.

“I’m over the moon.”

Menuisier is in no rush just yet to commit her to Ascot, though.

“She’s entered ,and I can’t say either way,” he added.

“We will see how she comes out of the race obviously. It’s in two weeks’ time – and (we’ll) see if the track is still waterlogged!

“We need to play it by ear. She might be kicking and bucking in five days, because she is a bit like that. If she does we might think about it.”

“She will stay in training, all being well, and the main target will be the Arc next year.

“We had a discussion about supplementing her this year. It was tongue in cheek, or maybe it wasn’t. If I had known Love wasn’t running maybe I would have pushed even harder to supplement her.

“She was really well – and receiving weight from the older horses, she would have gone quite far. I’m not saying she would have won, but I think she would not have been far away. Anyway, it’s water under the bridge.”

Menuisier recalled how he came to acquire the filly for 40,000 euros at Arqana August Yearling Sales in France.

“She was unsold in the ring,” he said.

“I knew the breeders, and they asked me to look at her. I loved the way she walked – she was light on her feet, like a spider. She was such a good mover.

“On the same day, Chris Wright sold the top lot to Godolphin – I went to congratulate him, and the discussion went on to something else.

“I told him about this filly – saying she didn’t look much, because she was a backward filly, but once she’s come together she could be a good purchase.

“They only wanted 40,000 euros and he said ‘OK – if you like her, have her vetted, and buy her’. And that’s what we did.”

Menuisier has Group One options for Wonderful Tonight

Ground conditions will dictate the next step of David Menuisier’s Prix Minerve winner Wonderful Tonight.

The filly stepped up in class markedly at the weekend to run in the Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp and acquitted herself well, in what looked a strong renewal.

She finished fifth of 10, beaten four lengths by Dermot Weld’s impressive winner Tarnawa on ground quicker than ideal.

“I thought she ran a very, very solid race,” Menuisier said.

“Considering the ground was probably far from ideal for her, I thought she ran an absolute stormer.

“She was only beaten a length and a half from the second place, and she probably ran to the same sort of mark, or maybe even better, than when she won in Deauville on ideal ground. So that kind of bodes well for the future.”

Menuisier is now considering two separate paths as he seeks her favoured conditions, with both the Prix de Royallieu back at ParisLongchamp and the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot pencilled in.

“I will go wherever the ground is the softest,” he said.

“It will either be the Royallieu on the Saturday of Arc weekend, over a mile and six furlongs, or the fillies and mares at Ascot on Champions Day over a mile and four.

“Let’s face it, we’ve only just run so we need to make our minds up in a few weeks.

“If the ground looked pretty soft over Arc weekend then I think we’ll just go there, rather than take a chance, not go there and then we end up on good ground at Ascot.

“If the ground is heavy or very soft for the Arc weekend then we’ll probably run there and then take it from there. If it’s not quite soft enough, we might bypass it and go to Ascot instead. I’m open minded really, I feel it’s a good problem to have!”