Fleur de Lune halted a four-race winless skid when capturing the Sistema Railway Stakes (NZ-I) on Jan. 1 at Ellerslie Racecourse and added a long-sought top achievement to her record.
With five previous placings at the highest level, the 5-year-old Stravinsky mare broke through in style, racing in midpack early before spurting through a gap 350 meters out and scoring by 1 1/4 lengths from Jetset Lad. She also delivered a first group I win to trainer Lee Somervell, a longtime horseman who for two years oversaw about 70 horses for the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
Fleur de Lune was timed in 1:09.21 for 1,200 meters (six furlongs) under Jason Jago on a track rated as good. She improved her overall record to six wins, including the Waikato Stud Foxbridge Plate (NZ-III) in August, six seconds, and five thirds from 23 starts.
Durham Town finished third, a head behind Jetset Lad.
Before her breakthrough win in the Railway, Fleur de Lune competed with distinction against New Zealand’s standout runners, including Horses of the Year Mufhasa and Jimmy Choux, and multiple group I winner Veyron. Her resume includes runner-up finishes in 2012 in the Fiber Fresh New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes (NZ-I) and Horlicks Windsor Park Stakes (NZ-I) and a third in the Manco Easter Stakes (NZ-I). In 2011, she finished third in both the Stewart Browne Group New Zealand Thoroughbred Breeder’s Stakes and Makfi Challenge Mudgway Stakes (NZ-I).
Fleur de Lune is among 76 stakes winners for top-class sire Stravinsky, who in December reached the remarkable milestone of 800 individual winners. The 16-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Nureyev stands at Sir Patrick Hogan’s Cambridge Stud in Cambridge, New Zealand, and has enjoyed global success with winners in 30 nations.
Somervell, whose involvement with horses not only includes the racetrack and the show ring but also the rodeo, said Fleur de Lune showed a will to win in the Railway Stakes.
“There’s not much of her, but she’s all heart,” said the 66-year-old part-time horse show ringmaster who trains Fleur de Lune for the partnership of John and Colleen Duncan and Ada Parnwell. “I knew she’d be hard to beat today.”
Parnwell bred Fleur de Lune out of the winning Kaapstad mare Kapsjoy. In 2006, she offered Somervell the position of running the “Horse Magic Show” at her Cambridge Lodge complex in Waikato and he eventually became the private trainer there. He is still the ringmaster and can be seen entering into the arena standing on the back of his Kaimanawa, a feral horse, and cracking his stock whip.