All Points North

Northerly trounced a strong field in winning the Australian Cup (Aust-I) at Flemington March 12. With the exception of Sunline, now in Dubai, and Tie the Knot, the best horses in training assembled in Melbourne's main fall event over 2,000 meters.

Northerly not only confirmed he's the best from the west in the $1,250,000 (Australian funds) major, he easily proved the master of those from all points east, including New Zealand. The gelded son of Serheed might well be the best paternal grandson of Nijinsky II to come out of Australia since Strawberry Road.

He obviously has an awfully long way to go to achieve anything of that ilk. Yet he's won the fall version of the Cox Plate (Aust-I), the race Strawberry Road collected before venturing north. And Northerly has done it at just his 10th start. The Cup was his sixth win and second at group I. His winning margin of three lengths, after racing wide for Sunline's usual partner Greg Childs, gained in stature when a track record 1:59.40 was posted.

After Northerly sprinted clear, Victoria Derby (Aust-I) winner Hit the Roof did best of the vanquished, holding a length over Kaapstad Way at the wire. The latter was favorite in wide-open betting, Northerly a strong second choice.

The win was a training triumph for Fred Kersley, best known as a handler of harness horses and much decorated in that field. Northerly is raced by Judy Kersley, wife of Fred, and the gelding's Perth breeders, Susan and Neville Duncan. By coincidence, and one some might call spooky, the absent Sunline and Tie the Knot also have Nijinsky II as a grandsire, on their dam's side. Their dams are by Western Symphony and Whiskey Road (also Strawberry Road's sire), respectively.

The reason Tie the Knot again passed on the Australian Cup was the 6-year-old had a prior engagement to win his third straight Chipping Norton Stakes (Aust-I) at home in Sydney two days earlier. Nassipour's marvelous son duly completed the task, and without too much fuss as an odds-on favorite.