Wonderful Tonight will make her eighth career start in Saturday’s Group 1 Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions Day. It will be the eighth time owner Chris Wright has not been at the racecourse to watch her run.
Having missed his filly’s two outings as a juvenile, including a maiden win at Saint-Cloud, a combination of lockdown protocols and quarantine restrictions means Wright has had to cheer on Wonderful Tonight from the comfort of home – and there’s been plenty of cheering so far.
The daughter of Le Havre has enjoyed her trips across the Channel, running four times in France this year, recording victories in the the Group 3 Prix Minerve at Deauville and Group 1 Prix de Royallieu at Longchamp on Arc weekend, with both wins coming on her favoured heavy ground.
Wright explains: “We were booked to go to Deauville for the Prix Minerve but because of the potential quarantine situation threatening to disrupt a family holiday, we didn’t travel and cancelled. I then thought about going to France for the Vermeille, but didn’t.
“I also thought about going to Paris for Arc weekend – had we run in the Arc I would definitely have gone. But technically I wasn’t allowed to attend both days at Longchamp so again, I didn’t travel.
“Now I’m in a situation where I’ve never seen her run [in person]. So it would be tempting fate to go to Ascot. Her Newbury race this year was during lockdown, when owners couldn’t attend, and I didn’t see her run in either of her races at two.
“When you get to this level you’re always a bit superstitious.”
Wright, who co-founded Chrysalis Records with Terry Ellis in 1968, signing the likes of Jethro Tull, Blondie and Spandau Ballet, is renowned as a successful breeder from his Stratford Place Stud but Wonderful Tonight was purchased privately as a yearling after failing to sell at Arqana.
Trainer David Menuisier takes the plaudits for spotting the filly and persuading Wright to write a cheque for the princely sum of €40,000. To say it has been money well spent is an understatement.
“She cost €40,000. What can you say?” Wright says. “You have to give all the credit to David Menuisier. He was at the Deauville sales, where we sold a colt reasonably well, and David told me he had seen a filly led out unsold. He said he loved her. So we went to see her, liked her, said yes and bought her.
“I don’t think I’ve ever spent six figures on a yearling – I would spend more on a broodmare – and none of my trainers would ever call me up and try and get me to spend six figures on a yearling.”
It would take a seven-figure sum to buy Wonderful Tonight now – not that she is for sale – and her value will only be enhanced further by victory in the Fillies & Mares Stakes at Ascot, which has attracted a field of 12.
Wright says: “Originally the plan was either Longchamp or Ascot. We thought we would get our ground at Ascot but we could only have our jockey in France – that was really the deciding factor, so we went to Paris.
“Tony Piccone has given her a wonderful ride every time he’s been on board. I give him a huge amount of credit. I was thrilled to win the Minerve because that meant she was a Group winner. Her performance in the Vermeille, beaten only four lengths on ground that wasn’t ideal, told us she deserved to run in Group 1s.
“We went to the Royallieu and of course you want to win but I was thinking I’d just love to be placed. Joseph O’Brien’s filly [Pista] looked like she was going to go past her but then Wonderful Tonight found another gear.”
He continues: “We said we’d the let filly tell us if she was able to run at Ascot. Of course it comes up quickly but we’ll have a crack and see. The plan is she stays in training next year.
“It’s a Group 1 race and it would be fantastic to be placed. With a filly you’re never upset to be third in a black-type race.”
Like many of Wright’s runners, Wonderful Tonight is named after a song, in her case the Eric Clapton ballad from 1977, which features on the album ‘Slowhand’. So is Slowhand himself, Mr Clapton, aware that Wonderful Tonight is enjoying a resurgence on the racecourse?
“I don’t know,” says Wright. “I haven’t seen him for a while. He has owned horses before but he’s not a big racing man.
“With Bungle Inthejungle [named after the 1974 song by Jethro Tull] I wasn’t sure if [frontman] Ian Anderson was aware of him so I dropped him a line – and he was aware.
“But I won’t call Eric. That would be tempting providence. I also make a point of never looking at the trophy before a race. Then you never win.”