Champion Western Australian galloper Northerly took the first step in his comeback in Perth Sept. 11 with a brave fourth at his first race for more than a year.

The winner of more than $9 million (Australian funds) was forced into retirement with an injured tendon 13 months ago. At that time he was preparing for a three-peat win in the country's leading set-weight event, the W.S. Cox Plate (Aust-I).

Now eight, he had not raced since nosed out by Freemason in an epic contest in the Tancred Stakes (Aust-I) in Sydney in April 2003.
In Saturday's non-stakes over 1,600 meters at Belmont, the 2003 Australian Horse of the Year carried 64kg (141 pounds) -- 12kg more than any other runner.

Northerly raced in fourth for Pat Carbery and took the lead soon after turning for home. He looked set to complete a fairytale return but the impost and the lack of race fitness found him out in the final 25 meters.

The fast-finishing Royal Minx collared Northerly at that point and two more back-runners nabbed him right on the wire, relegating him to fourth -- beaten three-quarters of a length.

His veteran handler and senior part owner, Fred Kersley was extremely happy with the effort of his famous charge, "it's how he recovers that counts now," he added.

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