Wonderful this afternoon: Pulborough trainer toasts maiden Royal Ascot
Wonderful Tonight provided Pulborough trainer David Menuisier with a first Royal Ascot success when impressively landing the Hardwicke Stakes.
In front of Her Majesty The Queen and just under 12,000 racegoers at the Berkshire venue, Wonderful Tonight returned the 5/1 winner of the 12-furlong Group Two event in the colours of owner and music agent/promoter Christopher Wright.
Ridden by William Buick Wonderful Tonight - whose chances were highlighted on this website - was always well-positioned and kicked for home off the turn to take the lead. A winner over course and distance at Ascot on Champions Day in October, the classy four-year-old continued to find more on the way to the line repelling the sustained challenge of the Aidan O’Brien-trained Broome (9/4 favourite) to score by a length and a half.
Wonderful Tonight has now enjoyed two Group One victories, a Group Two success and a Group Three win. Menuisier, based at Pulborough, revealed that plans are currently fluid in terms of where next for his stable star, with the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes back at Ascot in July.
The long-term target for Wonderful Tonight is the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp, for which she is a 10/1 shot. Discussing the win and future plans, Menuisier said: "Wonderful Tonight is an absolute champion. I couldn't be bullish in the press before the race because she was always going to improve for the run.
"She was running against tough opposition with the benefit of at least one run so you always have to be on the side of caution, but she is amazing. I didn't know what to say in the last 50 yards, it gave me a great sense of pride.
"Wonderful Tonight showed a tremendous turn of foot which she perhaps never showed before. I am very proud of the team, proud of the filly and also proud it is the only day Her Majesty came to this week so I'm pleased she got to see this filly live
"She loves Longchamp and Ascot so we will keep an eye on all the races she can run it at both venues. She's Wonderful Tonight and Wonderful all day!
"The fact that she handles soft/heavy ground so well compensated for the lack of fitness today. Can I go as far to say she will show the same traits on good ground? I don't know. Perhaps we will try in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe if the ground happened to be good. Would we try her on good ground before that? I don't know.
"The King George was run on very soft ground last year. The Hardwicke was not the plan until last week and at the confirmation stage I saw that there was rain forecast and we decided to keep her in. Sometimes you need to be lucky as well!
"I would expect a fair amount of improvement as I said before the race, she was 85% fit coming here. Two things today overwhelmed, it is how much more mature she is and is so calm. Also how strong she has got. William had the leisure to tuck her in instead of using her to use her stride which is great. That will be important in a race like the Arc where you need to be flexible based on your draw and other things. She showed a lot of flexibility today.”
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