Stevens Gets 1st French Group I with Somnus
by Blood-Horse Staff
Date Posted: 8/8/2004 5:32:45 PM
Last Updated: 8/11/2004 5:28:42 PM

Jockey Gary Stevens earned his first group I victory in France Sunday at Deauville when the English-trained Somnus held on by a neck over favored Whipper in the Prix Maurice de Gheest (Fr-I) at Deauville Sunday.

Somnus, a 12-1 shot, tracked the leaders while on the inside, slipped through to get the lead three furlongs from home and held off a furiously-closing Whipper, ridden by Christophe Soumillon, in the final strides. Dolma, who also closed in the late stages, was the third on the line, also beaten by a neck. The six furlong-plus event was contested on the straight course on good to soft going.

Somnus won his second group I for trainer Tim Easterby – he won the Sprint Cup (Eng-I) at Haydock last year – found the softer footing to his advantage.

Stevens, competing in Europe for French trainer Andre Fabre, joked, "I needed an English speaking horse to win my first group 1 race in France."

He also told Racing Post, "We had the race wrapped up a long way out. Somnus gave me a good feel from the start and he didn't start to idle after two furlongs as I was warned. This was a special moment for me and it takes the pressure of a little. Somnus is a very professional horse and he couldn't have won in a better style."

Part owner Lady Legard bred Somnus, a gelded son of Pivotal, at Scampston Stud, which she owns near Malton. She said she "took some flak" for the decision to geld.

"He was a star horse but he was difficult as a youngster and maybe he wouldn't have won two group 1 races if he hadn't been gelded," she told Racing Post.

Flaxman Holdings bred the runner-up Whipper, the well-backed favorite, in Kentucky.

Eighteen competed.

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