Instant Celebrity out to spoil the party in Irwin Stakes

Instant Celebrity
Instant Celebrity brings her spring form to win the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes. (Brett Holburt/Racing Photos)

Trekking looks poised to return to the winners’ list in tomorrow’s Group 3 Irwin Stakes (1100m) at Morphettville – but somebody forgot to tell the Instant Celebrity camp.

Aided by a small field and the race’s weight-for-age conditions, Trekking is a warm $2.45 favourite to make it two from two at SA headquarters, adding to his 2020 Goodwood triumph.

However, connections of a rejuvenated Instant Celebrity ($3.40) believe their horse can challenge the Godolphin $5.87 million earner.

The four-year-old mare raced below her best during a four-start spring campaign, which ended after she finished last in the Group 2 Linlithgow Stakes down the Flemington straight on October 30.

However, a successful operation to remove bone chips and an altered training routine have Instant Celebrity primed to recapture her best early-career form.

Last year, the Stokes-trained star landed the Group 1 Robert Sangster Stakes at Morphettville, then narrowly missed the double by finishing second to Savatoxl in The Goodwood a fortnight later.

“The team at Pakenham are happy with her – they are very confident in her chances,” said the stable’s Adelaide foreman, Tommy Stokes, who welcomed Instant Celebrity back to SA yesterday.

“She’s had some knee chips taken out and they reckon she’s feeling really sound and well.

“She’s been trained a little bit differently from the last prep. Previously, they made her build into her runs a bit, but this prep she’s rock-hard fit from the start.”

Stokes said the stable believed the bone chips prevented her from showing her best during the spring, other than a slashing first-up third in the Group 3 Cockram Stakes over 1200m at Caulfield.

“Yeah, that’s what we’re putting it down to,” he said.

“She was travelling up well, but wasn’t letting down and I’m sure she was just looking after herself.

“Now the chips are removed she’s moving a lot more freely. If she returns to her best, she’s a live chance.”

The stable has mapped out a short, sharp autumn campaign for the supremely bred daughter of Not A Single Doubt and Celebrity Girl.

“It’s just a matter of keeping her fresh and happy to get her through to the Sangster and the Goodwood,” Stokes said.

“If all goes to plan it’s just going to be a three-run prep for her, with the Sangster second up.”

The Stokes stable will supply one-third of the Irwin field, with outsider Shamino ($26) its second-string runner.

However, a fast-finishing third in the Listed Manihi Classic – behind Lombardo – over the same track and distance on April 2 has Stokes believing the six-year-old gelding can be competitive tomorrow.

“I thought it was a good return to form,” he said.

“We’ve been treading water with him for a while – he’s been a bit plain his last handful of starts.

“So it was good to see him bounce back to close to his best.

“He probably can’t win, but he can figure in the first few – if he goes on with it – and that’ll be a great result in a very competitive race.”

Like last start, Stokes expects Shamino – drawn the outside barrier – to be snagged back at the start and ridden for luck up the home straight.

“I’d say he’d go back and hunt for runs on the inside,” he said.

“And I’m sure there’ll be some nice horses in front of him that should be able to take him into the race.”

Adding further interest to the race is the presence of local mare Bella Vella, who won the Sangster in 2020.

The Will Clarken-trained seven-year-old failed to get in foal, hence the revival of her racetrack career.

She is having her first run since finishing 11th behind Eduardo in last year’s Group 1 The Galaxy at Rosehill.

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