'What a filly' - Wonderful Tonight a Royal Ascot first for delighted connections
Trainer David Menuisier and owner Chris Wright were both celebrating a maiden Royal Ascot success as Wonderful Tonight brushed aside an eight-month absence to repel her rivals under William Buick.
Bookmakers reacted by cutting last season's Champion Fillies and Mares heroine for the Qatar Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, with Paddy Power's initial offer of 16-1 (from 25-1) quickly getting a further trim into 12-1 and finally 10-1
The founder of Chrysalis Records and a longtime owner-breeder, Wright had waited 40 years for a winner at the meeting.
Asked how he felt as Wonderful Tonight surged clear of Broome and Hukum, Wright said: "I couldn't believe it. I was breathless and I'm absolutely staggered. I knew she needed the race. What a filly, she is amazing."
Buick added: "I won the Fillies' and Mares' race on Champions Day last year and I rode her like a real stayer because she had won the Royallieu – the mile and six race on Arc weekend – making plenty of use of her.
"Today I thought it's her first start of the year and we took a lead after a couple of furlongs, but she really took me by surprise when she quickened up. She's a very, very classy filly."
The calmest man in the camp appeared to be Menuisier, who honed his craft as assistant first to Criquette Head and latterly John Dunlop.
Menuisier bought the daughter of Le Havre privately for just €40,000 after she was led out of the ring at Arqana unsold and has long believed she could be his first runner in the Arc.
"I didn't know what to say in the last 50 yards, I was so proud," he said. "She showed a tremendous turn of foot today she had perhaps never shown before. She loves Ascot and she loves Longchamp as well so we'll keep an eye on all the races at both venues."
Wonderful Tonight's two Group 1 victories last autumn came in deep ground and Menuisier is keen to plan a campaign that might take advantage of such conditions at least until D-day at Longchamp.
"The fact that she handled heavy or very soft ground so well compensated for the lack of fitness today," he said. "Can I go as far as to say that she would show the same traits on good ground, I don't know until we try. Perhaps I would try in the Arc de Triomphe if the ground was good. Would I try before that? I don't know."
Quotes for the King George range from 12-1 down to as short as 7-1 in a place, and Menuisier said he would not rule any target in or out pre-Longchamp on the first Sunday in October, pointing out to journalists: "The King George was very soft last year, wasn't it?".
Other options could include the Yorkshire Oaks and Irish Champions Weekend, while Menuisier revealed that he hadn't intended starting Wonderful Tonight off in this race until the threat of Friday's downpour emerged.
"The Hardwicke wasn't the plan until last week," he said. "At the confirmation stage I looked at the forecast and there was a chance of a change of weather, and I thought, 'let's keep her in'. Sometimes you need to be lucky as well."
The soft ground took its toll on the line-up with no fewer than five non-runners, but there was no doubting Wonderful Tonight's superiority, her length-and-a-half victory testament to the way her stride shortened in the last half-furlong after such a long layoff.
Read more on Saturday's action at Royal Ascot. . .
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