David Menuisier has come a long way since starting out with four horses – and his latest stable star Wonderful Tonight could ensure things become even better by giving him further Group One glory.
With both the Pertemps St Leger at Doncaster on Saturday and the Prix Vermeille at ParisLongchamp 24 hours later under consideration for the three-year-old, it could be a weekend to savour for the Coombelands handler, whichever option he decides to pursue.
But while there may be plenty of big-race plans for Menuisier to look forward to at the moment, his career was almost over before it even started back in 2014.
He recalled: “We started in January 2014, got the licence in April, and we only had enough money to last us until June. We had one paying horse that joined us in May, the other four my parents sent over – two were Flat horses and the other two were store horses.
“We spread the word around that we were selling the store horses and somebody was really interested. They made an offer, which was about a third of what we expected, but beggars can’t be choosers, so we decided to accept the offer, but he had to pass the vet.
“Everything went quite smoothly, they just had to listen to his heart and the vet found a heart murmur, so that was the end of that as he failed the vetting.
“There was a week or 10 days left in June and we were wiped out, basically, and I was distraught, as that was our last hope to carry on.”
Just as Menuisier was preparing to concede defeat, he received a call that would change his life forever.
He said: “The very next day I got another phone call from someone that was interested and they were offering even less money, but that was irrelevant at that point.
“I accepted the offer and the other vet came down. Everything went smoothly again and there was only one thing left and it was his heart.
“He listened to it and said ‘that’s all good’ and we were shocked he managed to pass. The vet turned around and said to me ‘I know he has a murmur, but that is a good sign as it means he has a big heart!’.
“He vetted the filly as well and the next day he managed to get her sold as well. It was extraordinary and I remember like it was yesterday, as I was ready to write the letter to relinquish the barn.”
From the sale of the two horses, Menuisier was able to purchase a lead horse to accompany Slunovrat, who would go on to reward his handler’s perseverance by becoming his first winner less than two months later – but only after giving him an almighty scare.
He said: “I was running Slunovrat for the third time to get him handicapped at Kempton and he fell over right behind the horse of Amanda Perrett’s we were tracking. He was our last hope and we nearly lost him, so it shows you should never give up.
“We ran him at Newbury first time in a handicap in August and he ran a stormer to finish second, but for us it was like a win. Then I sent him to Newcastle and he managed to win there over a mile and a half. It was the best day of our lives.
“We came back the next day at two or three in the morning and Clive (Washbourn) rang later on August 26 and said ‘I was waiting for you to prove you can train a winner and now you have, I want you to buy me some horses’.”
Menuisier’s association with Washbourn has been a major part of his success, highlighted by the exploits of globetrotting Group Two winner Thundering Blue, who could enjoy his swansong in the Listed Foundation Stakes at Goodwood later this month.
Menuisier said: “He is getting on and has some serious mileage on the track – and air miles, too.
“We would like to find him a good opportunity to go out on a high before he is retired.”
With Thundering Blue nearing the end of his career, Wonderful Tonight remains at the peak of her powers – something Menuisier hopes the Le Havre filly will continue in whichever Group One she ends up contesting next weekend.
He added: “I think the main plan is to run in the Vermeille and as I’m French, it is one of those races you dream of winning all your life.
“The Leger is not the plan at this stage, but it could come into contention if it looks wet here and not so in France as she will stay.
“The Vermeille does look like a very good race as you will find a few fillies with Arc credentials in there.
“It would be a great birthday present to win either race, as I’m changing decade with my birthday on Saturday.”