Filly in final field of 12 which also includes the likes of Even So and Dame Malliot
David Menuisier is hoping Wonderful Tonight can end his quest for a first Ascot winner in style by scooping the £350,000 QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. Menuisier, based in Pulborough, is a multiple Group 1-winning trainer but, in his seventh season, a success of any description at Ascot has so far eluded him.
In Wonderful Tonight, he appears to have an ideal candidate to put the record straight.The three-year-old filly, who features among a final field of 12 is thriving on her racing and scooped the Group 1 Qatar Prix De Royallieu at Longchamp this month.
Her Ascot mission will come just a fortnight later but her trainer has been delighted with the way she has taken exertions and gave her the green light to run this morning.
The other Group 1 winner in the line-up is the Ger Lyons-trained Even So, who landed the Juddmonte Irish Oaks in impressive style at The Curragh July when she had the Aidan O’Brien-trained pair of Passion (third) and Laburnum (fourth) behind.
Ed Vaughan is handing in his licence at the end of the year, so it would be some story if Dame Malliot belatedly gives him a first Group 1 success. Dame Malliott landed the Group 2 Princess of Wales’s Stakes at Newmarket in July and has since twice been placed in Group 1 company on foreign shores, most recently when a fine third to Tarnawa in the Qatar Prix Vermeille at Longchamp.
She will be ridden by Hollie Doyle, who last night at Kempton won her 117th race of 2020 to break her own British record for the most winners in a calendar year by a woman.
Dame Malliott carries the colours of breeder-owner Anthony Oppenheimer, who will also be represented by the John Gosden-trained Frankly Darling, the winner of the Ribblesdale Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
Oppenheimer and Gosden combined to win last year’s Fillies & Mares with Star Catcher, with the latter also represented on Saturday by Mehdaayih, a Group 2 winner in France last year. Both are daughters of Frankel, with Frankie Dettori riding the latter.
Ralph Beckett landed the 2015 renewal with Simple Verse and will saddle Antonia De Vega and Manuela De Vega. The former, a staying-on sixth last year, when beaten under four lengths, won at Pontefract on her return in June before following up in the Group 3 Princess Royal Muhaarar Stakes at Newmarket last month.
Roger Varian runs Gold Wand and Cabaletta, with the field completed by the Joseph O’Brien-trained Thundering Nights.
WHAT THEY SAY:
David Menuisier on his filly, Wonderful Tonight
“The filly came back [from her last run in France] bucking and squealing and seems to be feeling great about life. I have a handful of horses starting to grow their winter coats but she definitely hasn’t. It was the same last year when she won in late November but still hadn’t grown her coat. She’s giving us all the right signals but at this time of the year the real crunch is when you enter the last furlong and ask for the extra gear. That’s when you will find out if the filly is 100 per cent recovered because we don’t put the pressure on in the mornings. It will be her last run of the season and in the grand scheme of things there is not too much to lose. If she’d come back starting to grow her coat and feeling sorry for herself, with her head down, then obviously I would not contemplate running her, but she’s buzzing. I’m not trying to be greedy. We put the filly first and as she ticks the boxes we contemplate running, not the other way round. I think a mile four is probably her favourite trip; she won over a mile and six last time because she’s very good. Ascot is a stiff track and if ground is tacky or very soft it will make it an even greater test of stamina. I would prefer a filly like her, who has won over further, rather than trying the trip for the first time. William Buick [who rides Wonderful Tonight for the first time] is a fantastic guy and I’m very pleased to have put his name next to hers. It gives you confidence when you have a strong jockey booking like this, although this filly is not a difficult ride as she does all the hard work for you.”
Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Passion and Laburnum
“Passion ran the day before the Arc in a mile and six fillies’ race [the Qatar Prix de Royallieu] and it was probably plenty far enough for her and the ground plenty deep enough for her, but she’s come out of the race very well. We think the mile and a half in Ascot will suit her and she will handles ease in the ground as well. Laburnum seems in good form.”
Ed Vaughan, the trainer of Dame Malliott
“She’s not had a hard season, with only three runs so far, and after trips to Germany and France since her Newmarket win it’s nice that she won’t have to travel this time. It would be a lovely way to go out [for me], but opportunities in these races are few and far between for a trainer like me and at the bread and butter level at which I’m mostly dealing the costs are getting higher and higher. There are a few ideas kicking around, and I’ll be winding down after Ascot, but there are no firm plans. All I can say for sure is that I’m finishing here. My landlord Colin Murfitt has been absolutely brilliant with me throughout, and of course I wish him well.”
Ralph Beckett, the trainer of Antonia De Vega
“She has come out of her Newmarket race in good shape and the more juice in the ground on Saturday the better. It was her first run back off a break when she ran in the race last year, as she’d had a problem after she won the Johnny Lewis Memorial Stakes at Newbury. She’s a filly who normally comes forward for a run and there had been three months between Pontefract and Newmarket this year, so I’m hoping she will come on.”
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