“He’s the real deal”.
It’s fair to say that leading Kiwi trainer, Donna Logan, was pretty impressed with the victory of her unbeaten Australian-bred colt, Qiji Phoenix, in Saturday’s Listed Diamond Lodge Champagne Stakes over 1600m at Ellerslie.
With his flashy white blaze sticking out like a beacon, Qiji Phoenix had the corks popping by the time he turned for home and the colt now has a stakes race to add to his three from three.
It won’t be his last tilt at black type either if Logan and owner, Chinese businessman, Fudong Niu, have their way.
“We’ll see how he pulls up from Saturday’s run but we’re looking at the (Group One) JJ Atkins Stakes over 1600m at Eagle Farm (10 June),” Logan enthused. “Futher ahead, I really think he could be a Derby-type horse. He relaxes beautifully in his races and he’s got push-button speed. He’s very adaptable.”
He certainly is. Qiji Phoenix came from behind to win his first race – at Te Rapa on 1 March – but then pretty much led throughout at Ellerslie at his next start.
In the Champagne, Qiji Phoenix was caught three wide in the early stages, but soon sat just off the leaders before really making his mark in the run home.
Closest at the end was another Australian-bred in Weather With You, two lengths adrift.
Bred in NSW by Grant Briscoe, Qiji Phoenix is the first live foal of Testa Rossa mare, No Mistaking.
Dan Adams, who manages Briscoe’s Kirk’s Bridge Farm, remembers Qiji Phoenix as a foal.
“He was an absolute cracking type … strong, athletic … big white blaze,” Adams points out. “We were in two minds about selling him but eventually decided to put the colt with Widden Stud’s draft for the 2015 Inglis Weanling and Broodmare Sale in Sydney. He ended up making $57,500 (sold to Ascot Farm) before being pinhooked to the New Zealand National Yearling Sale.
“I’m not surprised he’s doing so well – that was an incredible win on Saturday, the way he pulled away from them. He had it won a long way from home.
“The mare (No Mistaking) had a Dundeel colt which was sold to Anthony Freedman for $65,000 at this year’s Inglis Sydney Classic Yearling Sale and is back in foal to Dundeel.”
Qiji Phoenix was the first of three stakes winners on Saturday for the Arrowfield Stud-based, Not A Single Doubt, who now takes his black type tally to 41 – 12 in Australasia this season alone – and over $62 million in progeny earnings. Originally standing at $13,750 when first consigned to stud in 2005, Not A Single Doubt’s fee has been increased to $88,000 for this spring.
Weather With You, runner-up to Qiji Phoenix in the Champagne, is by Teofilo from the Rock of Gibraltar mare, Tarique, and was sold for $27,000 from the Sun Stud draft at the 2016 Gold Coast Magic Millions Yearling Sale.
That was the second time in a row that Weather With You took the bridesmaid role to Qiji Phoenix but trainers Murray Baker and Andrew Forsman can take some solace in that they ran second in the Champagne last year with Eleanora, before she went on to capture two Group races and finish third behind Lasqueti Spirit in last year’s VRC Crown Oaks.
Meanwhile, it was an ‘Aussie’ double at Ellerslie for Logan and co-trainer Chris Gibbs with Stryker colt, Not Usual Trip, winning solidly on debut over 1200m.
Originally sold by Ducatoon Park for $32,000 at the 2016 Adelaide Magic Millions, Not Usual Trip was rather astutely ‘hooked’ by Rosemont Stud at the 2016 Magic Millions 2YOs in Training Sale where the colt was knocked down to Hongwei Chen for $130,000.
Not Usual Trip’s sire, Stryker – based at Three Bridges Farm in Victoria – is well known to Kiwi racegoers through his first crop son and Group One New Zealand Derby winner, Rangipo.