He might be so short in the odds he's only a multi-include, but unbeaten juvenile Qiji Phoenix looks the best prospect at Ellerslie today.

The $1.60 on offer at the TAB is skinny, but it is a fair representation of his chance in race 5, the $50,000 Diamond Lodge Champagne Stakes.

We have seen better overall fields in this Ellerslie feature, but don't underrate Qiji Phoenix because of that - he is the real deal, unbeaten in two starts and while there is emerging talent in the opposition, he is the only winner in the line-up.

The sole question is the slow9 track rating yesterday. He won easily on a dead track here last start, but this will be much more testing and they're stepping to 1600m. That said, only extreme bad luck and the track can beat him.


Start Thinking (No5, R1) is an appropriate way to start the day because you will need to keep alert and put in plenty of thought to stay on the right side of the ledger. Overall fields are even.

Two starts for two seconds and this should go close to the breakthrough victory.

Ohceedee (No3, R2) is a lovely Power colt who was a fair fourth on debut on his home track at Pukekohe after a nice, tough Avondale trials win. He looks quite a gross type and should be improved and that field he ran in last time was pretty smart. He could be good each-way odds here. Embellish (No4) will be the warm favourite. He beat Summer Monsoon in his recent trial win and is ready for a big debut.

Could be the quinella.

Fire Jet (No2, R3) needed his first-up run last campaign, but he has had a trial this time and finished a nice second to Roc de Bank. He is smart and if close to his best can give this field a shake fresh from a break. Ferrando (No4) has plenty of class. But he is a speed type and this track will be testing and may not suit his style. Hard to ignore him though. Terrifique (No9) was hugely impressive winning here last time, coming from last. The No1 barrier may not assist. Nomisma (No7) is better than she has been showing.

Sacred Shot (No5, R4) has been racing well in a couple of too-short 1600m races. He steps back up to 2100m and while he has yet to step out on a rain-affected track, he is worth the risk. Tricky race. The value could be Neala (No10), who was parked wide before wilting last start. Cherry Bay (No7) and Ubasso (No9) are in the fight in a tough race.

Mystery Show (No1, R6) is well named. Her form is a definite mystery. One possible explanation is she had a particularly tough fresh-up race to win and that seems to have taken the shine off her. Today will tell. Underneath Mystery Show the race is confusing. So is Race 7.

Race 8, the $100,000 Valachi Downs Championship Stakes, is a better betting race. Tavidream (No2), Charles Road (No1), Camino Rocoso (No4) and Comin'through (No3) make for a great contest. Take no notice of Camino Rocoso being beaten at Pukekohe last start. The stable put him in the 1600m race in the hope it would teach him to settle in his races, but it worked against them. The race was run at a ridiculously slow pace and Camino Rocoso did remarkably well for a close second. This is not an easy race, but if the breaks go his way he can win. Couple the four up in multiples.

The Manco Easter Stakes is almost a no-bet race. You could take a six-horse trifecta and not lob 1-2-3. Let Me Roar (No18, R9) is exceptional, but don't underestimate what it will mean for her to remain unbeaten with the Easter trophy safely won. Chocante (No9), Hiflyer (No14) and Our King Sway (No8) are chances in an impossible line-up. The outsiders are El Pescado (No10) and Battle Time (No4).