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New Zealand-trained horses are set to continue their strong presence at the Eagle Farm
Image: Steve Hart

New Zealand-trained horses are set to continue their strong presence at the Eagle Farm section of the winter carnival.

Kiwi horses have won dozens of winter carnival races since legendary Rising Fast made his Australian debut in 1954.

Last year they were again major players and have a strong hand on Saturday when the carnival moves to Eagle Farm.

Heading the way will be Start Wondering in the Group One Kingsford Smith Cup (1300m).

It will be Start Wondering’s second Brisbane start after his sixth in the Doomben 10,000 (1200m) two weeks ago, a run which had his trainer Evan Rayner happy enough.

“He didn’t quicken in the ground and he was too close in the run. If he runs well on Saturday we will push on to the Stradbroke Handicap but not if he gets a ridiculous weight,” Rayner said.

Start Wondering, who won three races for premier Sydney trainer Chris Waller in 2015-16, was returned to New Zealand after suffering a bleeding attack.

His original trainer Paul Belsham retired and the horse was given to Rayner and his daughter J J who have won three races with the gelding including the Group One Railway Stakes and Group One NRM Sprint.

“It will be interesting to see how he goes against the best sprinters as sometimes our sprinters don’t measure up,” Rayner said.

The training partnership of Stephen Autridge and Jamie Richards have top chances in Melody Belle (BRC Sires), Heroic Valour (Fred Best Classic) and Shocking Luck (Grand Prix).

Melody Belle, the current favourite for the Group One J J Atkins Stakes, has won three of her five starts in New Zealand including the Karaka Million and the Group One Sires’ Produce Stakes.

“She ran second in a trial at Deagon two weeks ago and we are looking forward to a big run on Saturday,” Richards said.

Shocking Luck is the reigning favourite for the Group One Queensland Derby on June 10 on the strength of a brilliant win in the Rough Habit Plate at Doomben last Saturday week.

Donna Logan and Chris Gibbs will have the unbeaten Qiji Phoenix in the BRC Sires’ Produce Stakes and Here He Comes in the Grand Prix.

“This is Qiji Phoenix’s toughest test but he has won three from three and shows promise,” Logan said.

She expects Here He Comes improve on his sixth in the Rough Habit Plate and head to the Queensland Derby.

The Kiwis also have a strong hand in the Premier’s Cup (2200m) with 2016 Brisbane Cup winner Benzini and Chocante who finished third in the recent Chairman’s (2000m).

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