By Jon Lees
GB: Trainer David Menuisier may have lost a pair of Group-winning money-spinners but hopes remain high that his boutique stable has enough strength in depth to plug the gaps left by Danceteria and Chief Ironside, who both stayed in Australia in new hands after running at the Melbourne Spring Carnival.
On the other hand, the Pulborough-based Frenchman is forecasting a return to form for stable star Thundering Blue after 2019 proved a total write-off for his popular grey flagbearer, who has since been treated for stomach ulcers.
In a productive 2019, Menuisier’s total of 22 winners included overseas victories at G1, G2 and G3 level – in Germany, Australia and France respectively – for prize-money in excess of £600,000.
Danceteria claimed the stable’s first top-level success in the Grosser Dallmayr-Preis – Bayerisches Zuchtrennen in Munich and then went on to tackle the Cox Plate at Moonee Valley in Australia, where Chief Ironside lifted the G2 Schweppes Crystal Mile.
Now 39-year-old Menuisier is planning his seventh campaign from Guy Harwood’s former base, the Coombelands estate in West Sussex where the great Dancing Brave was trained in the 1980s.
“Last year we had 25 or 26 horses in the yard, including two-year-olds,” said Menuisier, who had spells working with Criquette Head-Maarek, Richard Mandella and John Dunlop before flying solo.
“I think to win 22 races, including a G1, G2, G3, a couple of Listed races and a big sales race – that was pretty amazing considering the number of horses.
“People don’t realise that in October we were running in three different countries at the same time, England, France and Australia,” he went on. “Logistically it wasn’t easy to handle but we pulled it off because we managed to win races everywhere and at a good level too.”
Menuisier trained just one winner in his first season but his focus on quality over quantity paid dividends in 2018 when Thundering Blue’s victory in the Sky Bet York Stakes delivered a first Group success. On his next start, Thundering Blue was third to Roaring Lion in the Juddmonte International then won the Stockholm Cup.
Though unable to reach anything like the same heights last season, the now seven-year-old gelding is back in training after a break and treatment for ulcers, the figurehead of a team of 45 including several three-year-olds for whom Menuisier has high hopes once the season starts.
“Thundering Blue had a very good season two years ago but last season there was something not quite right with him, which took us a while to figure out,” said the trainer.
“His morning work was exactly the same but he wasn’t performing to the best of his ability. I decided to give him the rest of the year off last year and start again this season.
“We checked everything but couldn’t find anything. Then my nutritionist suggested we checked him for stomach ulcers and it turned out he was infested with them.
“Danceteria and Chief Ironside both stayed in Australia but we still have a pretty decent yard in terms of quality,” he added. “As we can’t test them yet it is all about dreaming and the dream is still alive as we had a few interesting two-year-olds last year who were always going to be better as three-year-olds.”
Menuisier picked out a few of them, saying: “The likes of Into Faith, who won the big sales race in France on Arc weekend, could be an interesting horse and the horse who ran third to him, Luigi Vampa, is another horse that could be quite classy.
“Luigi Vampa is related on the dam side to Danceteria and is a stronger horse than Danceteria was at the same age. He has done particularly well over the winter and is entered in the French and German Derby but, like the others, until they prove themselves in trials they are not realistic targets at the moment, maybe in a few weeks time.
“Gypsy Whisper, a filly who won at Lingfield last year, seems to have a good amount of potential. Wonderful Tonight, who won a maiden at the last turf meeting in France at Saint-Cloud, could be another and I still have six or seven unraced three-year-olds.
“I wouldn’t dare compare any of them to a horse of the calibre of Danceteria. They have to prove they are worthy of that level.”
Menuisier, who will keep Listed winner History Writer for later targets when the ground eases, has no plans to trade his individual approach for more horses.
“I would prefer to go bigger slowly, slowly, rather than double or triple the size of the yard and then have staff issues.” he explained. “I like sticking to what we know.
“We have always tried to focus on quality and getting the best out of each horse. It would be interesting to see some statistics but out of all the horses we have trained so far since I started with four horses, there aren’t many that have improved after they left the yard.”