'I just find it stupid' - David Menuisier hits out over Coral-Eclipse line-up
Trainer David Menuisier has spoken out at the stupidity of small fields for richly endowed races after leaving his stable star Wonderful Tonight in Saturday's £600,000 Coral-Eclipse at Sandown on seeing the defection of many of the principal players for the Group 1.
Wonderful Tonight, a brilliant winner of the Group 2 Hardwicke Stakes at Royal Ascot this month that bolstered her trainer's dreams of success in the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, is one of seven left in contention for the Eclipse, although Menuisier has warned "freak weather" is needed for her to run, and that she was only kept in due to the race cutting up.
Despite Wonderful Tonight's likely absence from the Eclipse, Menuisier, based in West Sussex after stints as assistant to Criquette Head and John Dunlop, could not hide his sadness at the mile-and-a-quarter contest, first run in 1886 and won in recent years by superstars Golden Horn, Enable and Ghaiyyath, attracting such a small number of runners.
He said: "It's 99.9 per cent not the plan to run, we were just considering if there was a drastic change of weather, absolute downpours, and there ended up being just two or three runners then perhaps we would consider it. But it's definitely not the plan.
"We saw there were only six others confirmed and then people complain about prize-money, I just find it stupid. Let's face it, without talking about mine, if you look at the six – half of them are obviously top-class animals, and half of them are probably below that level. I think it's a sad state of affairs really, I can't see why. The ground will be near enough good. I just find it sad there are only a handful of horses in such a big, historic race."
A clash of the generations could be on the cards despite the small field after dual French Classic winner St Mark's Basilica was left in at Monday's confirmation stage by Aidan O'Brien.
Mishriff, who won the Saudi Cup and Dubai Sheema Classic to earn £9.5 million in February and March, heads the possible opposition alongside last season's Champion Stakes winner Addeybb, with the O'Brien-trained Japan and Armory, as well as the Roger Varian-trained El Drama, the others in contention.
The last double-figure field for the Eclipse came when Sea The Stars won in 2009, but a potentially star-studded line-up on Saturday was decimated when leading fancies Love, Mohaafeth, Lord North and Snowfall were not confirmed for the race.
David Egan will keep the ride on Mishriff, who sponsors Coral make the marginal 13-8 favourite over 7-4 chance St Mark's Basilica, with the four-year-old's stablemate Lord North missing the race for John and Thady Gosden due to an infection.
Joint-trainer John Gosden said: "Lord North will not run in the Eclipse as he has a throat infection. Unfortunately he didn't get his ground at Ascot so this further hiccup is frustrating. Mishriff will be our only runner."
A two-time Group 1 winner for Menuisier, Wonderful Tonight is an 8-1 chance with Coral and has excelled in conditions with a bit of ease.
Soft entered the going description at Sandown after 18mm of rain on Sunday night, with conditions officially described as good to soft, soft in places on the round course, and soft on the sprint course.
Further showers are forecast on Tuesday and Saturday, making it difficult for clerk of the course Andrew Cooper to predict conditions for the Group 1 raceday. However, Menuisier is not expecting enough rain for him to reconsider his plan to miss the Eclipse with the Chris Wright-owned four-year-old.
"What would sway my decision? Freak weather," Menuisier added. "It's really not the plan – we just left her in out of, I don't know, maybe stupidity. I think ten furlongs would be interesting, but possibly not two weeks after Ascot.
"The plan is probably to go straight to the King George if we have our ground, or pencil in something after the King George if we don't. The King George is the next sensible option."
Sandown was a mix of good, good to firm before the weekend rain and Cooper said it was "almost impossible to predict" how the track would shape up due to an unclear forecast.
He said on Monday: "We measured about 18mm of rain here last night – it didn't start until 7pm and eased off about midnight, so it was quite intense. It was in the forecast, but that was the higher end of what was suggested.
18mm rain @Sandownpark on Sunday evening. The Going ahead of @Coral-Eclipse is now Soft on the Sprint Course, and Good to Soft, Soft in places on the Round Course. Further showers possible during Monday and Tuesday, mainly in the late afternoons and evenings.— Andrew Cooper (@ACooperClerk) June 28, 2021
"That's left us with straightforward Flat-racing soft on the sprint track, while the round is a 50-50 mix of good to soft and soft ground.
"The forecast isn't entirely clear, particularly the rainfall volumes in the next 48 hours. It looks a drier window from Wednesday through to Friday and then maybe a return of showers at some point over the weekend. It's not a definite band of rain but, at the same time, some of those showers could be heavy.
"We're on the easy side for sure, but it's almost impossible to predict until Wednesday how we're going to shape up."
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