Menuisier Hoping Heartache Can Continue Wonderful Story

David Menuisier, left with Oaks contender Heartache Tonight | Scoop Dyga


Eric Clapton has already inadvertently provided owner Chris Wright and trainer David Menuisier with one Group 1-winning filly in the form of Wonderful Tonight (Fr) (Le Havre {Ire}) and now it's up to The Eagles. 

Former record company boss Wright has a long history of naming his horses after song titles, and when it came to the half-sister to the multiple group winner, the selection of Heartache Tonight (Fr) (Recorder {GB}) seemed fitting. There may well have been a little heartache involved, too, as at the time she was signed up as a private purchase at Arqana's October Yearling Sale, her elder-sister had only recently exited stage left, her season and career curtailed by injury. By that stage, however, Wonderful Tonight had already won the G1 Prix Vermeille and G1 QIPCO British Champion Fillies & Mares S., as well as the G2 Hardwicke S at Royal Ascot and the G2 Lillie Langtry S. at Goodwood, her local track.

Now in her place at Menuisier's Sussex stable is her three-year-old sibling, who on Friday will become her trainer's first runner in a British Classic. Like Menuisier, Heartache Tonight was born and bred in France, but they have both migrated across the Channel. Despite Britain now being the filly's permanent base, she has raced solely in her native country in her three starts to date. 

By the Sumbe sire Recorder, a son of Galileo (Ire) bred by Her Late Majesty the Queen, Heartache Tonight is out of the Montjeu (Ire) mare Salvation (GB) and was herself bred by Sylvain Vidal, the former head of Haras de Montfort & Preaux, where the Sumbe stallions reside. 

Menuisier demonstrates his trademark sangfroid when it comes to lining up at Epsom. “We're keeping our feet on the ground,” he says. 

“The main plan has always been and will still remain the autumn for this filly. She will have a break after this and she will be trained for the Arc. If she's not good enough we can bring her back. That said, I wouldn't run [in the Oaks] if I didn't think she has a chance, but I personally feel no pressure about Friday.”

No box-walking for the trainer, then, and he is justified in his belief that his filly, who runs in the colours of Chris Wright in partnership with Andy MacDonald, deserves her place in the line-up. 

Heartache Tonight was the easy winner of her sole start at two, which came on heavy turf and over nine furlongs at Lonchamp. She returned to Paris in April for the G3 Prix Cleopatre, in which she was beaten just over a length when third behind Crown Princesse (Fr) and Elusive Princess (Fr). All three were pitched straight into Group 1 company for their next start in the Prix Saint-Alary and finished second, third and fourth behind Jannah Rose (Ire), with a length and a half separating the quartet. 

“I think that the two trials she ran in were interesting races and they came across as being of a good level,” says Menuisier. “When we ran in the Cleopatre, she was the only filly making her seasonal debut in the race and it was only her second race ever. We don't train on turf here, we train on wood chip, so it was her second time on the grass and I thought she ran a strong race.

“She was always going to need the run. A furlong and a half out she looked like she was getting swamped but then she had a little breather and picked up again, so that was a really good performance.”

He continues, “We decided to aim high and I said at the time that we would only run in the Saint-Alary on soft ground, because I think that she would have lacked a little pace to have won over 1m2f on good ground. 

“It was a bit of a stop-and-start race, but it was the same again, and when they quickened, she looked like she was getting swamped again, but then she picked up and rallied and was only beaten a length and a half. The second and the third were the fillies who finished just in front of her in the Cleopatre, so the form repeated itself and the filly gained experience. She was really green at Saint-Cloud but she's learning all the time and we feel at home that she has improved more since the Group 1 than she did between the Group 3 and the Group 1. So, we'll see.”

Stepping up to the mile and a half of the Oaks test, rather than remaining at the shorter distance for the Prix de Diane, especially now that the ground has dried out significantly, will suit Heartache Tonight, according to her trainer. 

“I think she wants 1m4f to compete at the top level. It's great to go and run in France but every time it is a long journey. We're only 45 minutes from Epsom so it's perfect to run here.”

It is only natural to draw comparisons between half-sisters, especially when they emanate from the same stable, but Menuisier outlines one key difference in the make-up of Heartache Tonight.

He says, “This filly is very similar to her sister in many ways. She has a strong temperament but she is so much easier to train than Wonderful Tonight. This one is pretty bombproof, and I'd be surprised if she was fazed by the preliminaries. When she ran at Longchamp, she stayed in Chantilly and travelled over to the racecourse in the morning, and it was quite busy at the track and the stables were packed but she didn't turn a hair. She was sleeping flat out in her box before the race. She has the constitution to go to war in the big races.”

Menuisier adds, “It's a fantastic story for everybody really. What is the chance of having two sisters competing at Group 1 level, especially when you buy them at the sales? It's pretty exceptional.”

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