Menuisier: It’s a wonderful life to train Arc hope

Trainer David Menuisier is living the dream as he works back from Wonderful Tonight’s big stage target in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.

The four-year-old, a daughter of Le Havre, was already a dual Group One winner before providing Menuisier with another career milestone on her seasonal reappearance last month – a first taste of Royal Ascot success.

Wonderful Tonight’s remarkable career now reads: Five wins from nine starts, with the first three victories coming in Menuisier’s native France.

It is on the lush green slopes of West Sussex where Menuisier, a son of thoroughbred breeders from Lorraine, really feels at home, having pursued his childhood dream to become a trainer.

After plying his trade with huge names such as Christiane Head-Maarek in France and Richard Mandella in the USA, Menuisier settled in the UK – “the greatest horse racing nation in the world”, he says – for one final apprenticeship under the great John Dunlop.

“From the day I walked into this country I felt at home, rightly or wrongly,” Menuisier told Sky Sports Racing. “I haven’t looked back. For me, it was a natural progression establish myself here.

“As a trainer you want to win all those big races but look at my surroundings, this is my office.

Menuisier surveys his team on the gallops at his West Sussex base
Image: Menuisier surveys his team on the gallops at his West Sussex base

“I’m pinching myself every day to be able to live my dream. I think I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve got.

“In the afternoon, you go to the races as a pay day, but the morning exercises is really what we love.

“I think when you live in the situation you don’t realise how lucky or fortunate you are to deal with animals like her [Wonderful Tonight].

“I bumped into another trainer last week they said: ‘Very well done for Ascot, you’re making dreams happen. Dream that we all live for.’ I felt quite emotional hearing that.”

David Menuisier
Image: David Menuisier is plotting Wonderful Tonight’s route to the Arc in October

Menuisier’s willingness to travel in search of success has long been reflected in the form book of the likes of Danceteria [winner of a Group One in Germany] and Moonee Valley [a Group Two winner in Australia].

Having racked up the miles to win at Saint-Cloud, Deauville and Parislongchamp, Wonderful Tonight returned home and “stunned” her trainer on the gallops.

“She’s shown ability from day one but that doesn’t really mean anything,” Menuisier said. “That means she is good enough to win a maiden somewhere and go on to better things but then there’s a massive difference between that and winning two Group Ones.

“She has everything: The will to win and the strength. She’s sweet but assertive. She knows what she wants in life and that translates to the track. She does everything actively, she’s a busy bee.

William Buick smiles after he and Wonderful Tonight cross the line in front in the Hardwicke Stakes
Image: William Buick smiles after he and Wonderful Tonight cross the line in front in the Hardwicke Stakes

“When I saw Wonderful Tonight last year between the Prix de Royallieu and the British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes, she had a blowout and I was absolutely stunned.

“We felt she might have had a hard race in France because the ground was really bad but when we gave her a blowout, she absolutely flew. She went so fast, it was unreal.”

Wonderful Tonight got her favoured soft ground when winning on Champions Day at Ascot in October last year and the rain returned just in time for similar conditions at the Royal meeting last month.

Despite not being fully wound-up for her first run of 2021, there was no catching Menuisier’s star as she took the Group Two Hardwicke Stakes, beating no fewer than four subsequent Group winners in Broome, Hukum, Japan and Sir Ron Priestley.

“She was only 85-90 per cent fit so we expected her to blow-up,” Menuisier said. “I said to Chris [Wright, owner]: ‘I’m not saying she can’t win, but I don’t know’.

“This filly, on very soft ground, does not need to make an effort when others do. Even when she’s lacking fitness, that gets her there because the others get tired.”

All roads now lead back to Paris, via a potential return to Ascot next week for the King George.

“The ultimate aim is the Arc, so we’ve been working backwards from that and making possible plans,” Menuisier said. “It’s a matter of finding race to improve her fitness until then.”

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