Northerly, who blew by Sunline in the John F. Feehan Stakes (Aust-II) at Moonee Valley on September 15, is hot.
There was Sunline, out on her own early on inside the short Moonee Valley stretch. It's a situation that usually bodes ill for those chasing the champion mare. Northerly, meantime, was several lengths astern after losing noticeable ground just inside the final 400 (quarter mile) of the required 1,600 meters (1 mile).
Others volunteered to maintain the pursuit. At his Valley debut, the 5-year-old Perth horse didn't seem to respond for Damien Oliver until the rider allowed him to balance rounding the last of four turns. The effect was immediate: Northerly started to eat into Sunline's lead. Surely it would be too late. But they came on like gangbusters in the final furlong and the late surge saw them collar Sunline and Greg Childs close to the wire.
The margin was a long head. It was a sensational end to what had billed as a dress-rehearsal for the AUS$2.2 million W. S. Cox Plate (Aust-I) on October 27. A crowd which had respectfully observed the one minute silence a few hours earlier, roared as the pair raced towards the line in the AUS$210,000 feature. (At least a minute's silence preceded every sporting event in Australia last weekend--no
matter how minor.)
In another struggle for third, five lengths away, the Australian Derby (Aust-I) runner-up Sir Clive just held out Weasel Will. Northerly was appearing in Melbourne for the first time since his grand 3 1/4-length victory under Childs in the $1.25 million Australian Cup on March 12. The gelded son of Nijinsky horse Serheed has now won over AUS$1.5 million for his owners--trainer Fred Kersley, his wife Judy, and breeders Neville and Susan Duncan of Oakland Park Stud.
Sunline was unbowed and the 6-year-old New Zealand warrior should also be fitter for the run. So, too, will the horse from the west coast. They could confront each again as early as September 24, in the Underwood Stakes (1800m, Aust-I) at Caulfield.
Sunline has eased to an equal 3-1 favorite with Northerly in the revised early odds for the Cox Plate. German horse Silvano and Derby Prince are next at 10-1.