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.