Somervell back for another Railway attack

Lee Somervell has learnt a lot since he first tackled the Group I Railway Handicap at Ellerslie and he’s looking forward to at least picking up some of the stakemoney tomorrow.

Somervell will saddle up the top mare Fleur de Lune, who has been a Group III winner of the Waikato Stud Foxbridge Plate and five times Group One-placed but gets into the Sistema-sponsored feature with a luxury weight of 54kg under the special conditions.

“The only time I’ve had a runner in the race was with Ruletta back in the 1980s,” recalled Somervell. “She had won at Tauranga and I backed her up. Looking back I should never have done that. I’ve learnt a lot since then.”

Ruletta was raced by former Sunday News racing editor Lex Nicholls and led all the way to win at Tauranga two days before the Railway. Again with Craig Cossill in the saddle, Ruletta finished eighth in the Ellerslie feature, which that year (1983) was won in runaway style by Keith Opie’s top sprinter So Dandy.

Fleur de Lune has emerged the best horse Somervell has trained and it would be a fitting result to see her break through with a Group One win in the Railway Stakes.

She was third to Mufhasa and Jimmy Choux in last year’s Group I Makfi Challenge Stakes at Hastings and was beaten a mere nose by Say No More in the Group I Fiber Fresh NZ Thoroughbred Breeders’ Stakes at Te Aroha last April following on from a third in that event 12 months earlier.

Fleur de Lune’s last Group One tilt last term was when she finished a gallant third to Cambridge Horse Of The Year Veyron in the Group I Manco Easter Handicap at Ellerslie.

She picked up her fifth Group One placing when second to Mufhasa in the Windsor Park Stud Plate at Hastings last September and goes into the Railway Stakes with a last-start eighth in the Group II NRM Auckland Thoroughbred Breeders Stakes at Pukekohe on November 24.

Somervell says Fleur de Lune had her excuses for not finishing closer in the Pukekohe fillies and mares event.

“She jarred up and was just flat on the day,” said Somervell. “She’s really enjoying the sting out of the ground lately and I decided to go into the Railway fresh. She’s sprinted well fresh before, when winning the Foxbridge Plate.”

Fleur de Lune has drawn ideally and will again be ridden by Jason Jago, who also had a top chance in another of tomorrow’s features, the City Of Auckland Cup, with John Bell’s exciting stayer Storming The Tower.

Somervell will be tackling two Group races tomorrow with Addictive Habit a starter in the Group II Sound Championship Stakes (2100m).

Addictive Habit, the mount of Andrew Calder, fought well for second to the unbeaten Habibi on Boxing Day in the Great Northern Guineas and Somervell says he has trained on well.

“I thought that was a real improver’s run and the further he goes the better he will get,” said Somervell.