New Zealand's prospects of defending its group 1 title for 2-year-olds at the Queensland winter carnival have been given a major boost.
Qiji Phoenix showed he was on target for the J.J. Atkins Stakes at Eagle Farm on June 10 when he romped home in yesterday's Listed Diamond Lodge Champagne Stakes at Ellerslie.
The Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs-trained youngster is unbeaten in three appearances and the Brisbane feature, won last year by the Tony Pike-trained Sacred Elixir and also by Darci Brahma in 2005, has long been on his radar.
"He's the real deal and we were quietly confident today," Logan said. "As long as he comes out of this race okay he'll be going to Brisbane."
Qiji Phoenix jumped well to race on the pace and he was coasting on the turn with rider Leith Innes afforded the luxury of looks to either side at the top of the straight.
"I said to Leith that he could lead or if something else wanted to then let them go and he rode the horse perfectly," Logan said.
Qiji Phoenix ambled to the front soon after straightening and he cruised to the line to comfortably account for Weather With You and the central districts visitor Scott Base.
The stable has high hopes that Qiji Phoenix will develop into a classic contender next season.
"He's a really relaxed horse - he could be a Derby type," Logan said.