By David Nagel
Pakenham trainer Phillip Stokes has used his old home-town of Adelaide as the perfect cover for an interstate stealth-raid on the picturesque Kyneton racecourse on Thursday.
Stokes – who dominated Adelaide racing before making his move to Pakenham – saddled up his three-year-old filly Inala Michelle for her first race start in the $25,000 3YO Fillies Maiden Plate (1112m).
The daughter of Atomic/Inala Wonder had a jump out and trial at Morphettville in September last year, and returned to the track for two trials at Morphettville and Gawler in the early part of this year.
Then, not quite under the cover of dark, Inala Michelle was floated across to Pakenham to begin her racing career in Victoria.
Ridden by in-form jockey Zac Spain, Inala Michelle showed true grit to make it a winning debut after being headed in the straight but fighting back for a tough victory.
Stokes’s stable representative Ash said the camp did have high ambition heading into Inala Michelle’s first-up assignment, at the tasty odds of $8.
“It was her first race start and she’s definitely improved since she first came into the stable and we do have high hopes for her, and she’s definitely proved that today,” Ash said post-race.
“She came across a few weeks ago and we’ve very done very light work with her.
“We’ve done her gallops here; she’s improved every time and she’s definitely shown her ability today…and we got her at a good price.”
Spain was also confident, given Inala Michelle’s impressive form on the track and the proven record of the Stokes’ yard.
“She was super, she’s been working well at home, she’s just still very raw and green, and I think she’s going to get over further as well, which is good,” Spain said.
“She’s very natural, very progressive, she flew the barriers, lobbed in a beautiful spot, she was good.
“And Phil was definitely confident, his first starters always come to the races spot on and raring to go, so full credit to Phil and his team for having her spot on today.
“I’m there (at Pakenham) twice a week, putting in the work, so to get the rewards is good.”
Inala Michelle was challenged twice in the straight, first being headed by eventual third-placegetter Senegalia, before holding off the fast-finish of the Matt Cumani-trained Let Fly to hold on by a short-half-head on the line.