With jockey Mark Flaherty, 2004 Turnbull Stakes.
|Breeder||Oakland Park Stud|
Mr & Mrs NG Duncan|
& Mrs J Kersley
|Northerly is a thoroughbred racehorse out of North Bell by Serheed. He was born around 1996 in Australia, and was bred by Oakland Park Stud.|
Australian Cup (2001,2003)|
Cox Plate (2001,2002)
Underwood Stakes (2001,2002)
Caulfield Cup (2002)
Yalumba Stakes (2001)
Railway Stakes (2000)
Australian Middle Distance Champion (2002, 2003)|
Australian Champion Racehorse of the Year (2003)
Timeform rating: 129
|Horse (Equus ferus caballus)|
|Last updated on March 5, 2007|
Northerly foaled in 1996 was bred by Oakland Park Stud, Western Australia was arguably Australia's best middle distance Thoroughbred horse of the early 2000s. Northerly, trained by Western Australian harness racing legend Fred Kersley, won nine Group 1 races, including the Australian Cup twice, and the Cox Plate, regarded as the Weight for Age championship of Australasia, also on two occasions. The bay gelding by Serheed from North Bell was foaled in 1996. Northerly had 37 race starts, won 19, was second 7 times, and third on 2 occasions, earning prize money of AUD$9.34 million. Northerly was a favourite of punters for his ability to win narrowly after appearing beaten, and this trait, in combination with his racing colours of yellow, black Maltese Cross and quartered cap earned him the nickname of "The Fighting Tiger".
After winning a string of minor races in Perth, Northerly burst on the scene with his victory in the 2000 Railway Stakes in his native Perth where he accounted for the state's best milers by nearly three lengths.
Following a first-up second in 2001 in the unsuitably short Australia Day Stakes in Perth, Northerly arrived in Melbourne for an autumn campaign aimed at the Australian Cup. He won his first race in Melbourne, the Carlyon Cup over 1,600 metres, by almost four lengths, in course record time, and began a successful relationship with New Zealand jockey Greg Childs.
Following a third, carrying 59 kilograms, in the Victoria Gold Cup, Northerly headed to the Australian Cup over 2,000 metres at Flemington - his first weight-for-age race against top class opposition. Despite racing three-wide, he won by just over three lengths in course record time. Greg Childs said "On that run today, to break the track record after racing three-wide, you'd have to say he's already on the way up to Sunline's status. He's not quite Sunline yet, but he's got all the hallmarks of a champion." Sunline, a champion New Zealand mare, had won the Cox Plate for two years running, and the spring clash with Northerly was now widely anticipated.
Northerly was spelled for the winter, and started his campaign in Perth, where he won first-up and was defeated second-up with 62 kilograms. He then travelled to Melbourne, where he met Sunline for the first time in the John F Feehan Stakes in mid-September. This time, Damien Oliver took the ride, as Greg Childs was committed to Sunline. The great mare raced clear approaching the home turn, but Northerly rallied in the straight for the narrow, fighting victory that would become his trademark. Greg Childs said "Sunline was at peak fitness. We took off early and he looked a beaten horse. But he nailed us on the line. It was his determination. Often he looked to be struggling but he kept coming".
Not meeting again before the Cox Plate, Northerly added Group One wins in the Underwood and Caulfield Stakes, while Sunline edged to favouritism for the Cox Plate with her victory in the Turnbull Stakes.
The stage was now set for the 2001 Cox Plate. In typical style, Sunline led the field to the home turn, but - unlike the previous two years, when she raced clear in the straight - the Sydney three-year-old Viscount refused to give in, while Northerly loomed wider on the track. Nearing the line, the three horses buffeted one another on several occasions, and, while Northerly narrowly edged past Sunline and Viscount, the roughhouse conclusion to the race sparked three separate protests - second (Sunline) against first (Northerly) and third (Viscount) against first and second. After lengthy deliberations, stewards dismissed all three protests, and Northerly controversially retained the race. Nonetheless, Northerly had had an outstanding campaign, and the Cox Plate was his fourth win in-a-row.
Northerly returned to Perth, and his trainer Fred Kersley chose to run him in the Railway Stakes, which had been moved forward on the calendar. Unfortunately for the "home" crowd, the Cox Plate winner wilted badly in the home straight under 61.5 kilograms, and he finished an uncharacteristic 11th of 16 behind the Lindsey Smith trained Old Comrade, who again defeated Northerly in the Australian Cup in March.
Northerly had shown strong lead-up form to the Australian Cup, including a close second in the C F Orr Stakes over 1,400 metres at Caulfield and victory in the St George Stakes at the same venue a fortnight later, but Old Comrade came with a well-timed run to win the Cup in a boilover. After a tough campaign, with very little rest and stretching from August to March, Fred Kersley decided to give Northerly a good spell in the lead-up to his spring campaign.
After beginning his campaign in an unsuitably short sprint in Perth, Northerly arrived in Melbourne for the Memsie Stakes, but tried to bite one of his rivals, Fields Of Omagh, and was unplaced. Backing up a week later, in the Craiglee Stakes, Northerly returned to the winner's circle, and made it three on the trot with wins in the Underwood and Turnbull Stakes. By running in the Turnbull, Kersley opened up the possibility of running Northerly over 2,400 metres for the first time, in the Caulfield Cup.
Well-positioned by Greg Childs in the first five runners, the incredibly slow pace helped Northerly overcome the big weight of 58 kilos, and sprint to victory from Fields Of Omagh and Republic Lass, while Freemason, who had led into the straight, faded to finish a close fifth. Northerly's weight carrying feat eclipsed Sydeston's modern day record of 57 kilos (set in 1990), while Fields Of Omagh won two Cox Plates over the next four years. Northerly started favourite, and the typically fighting win was well-received by the crowd on the day. Jockey Greg Childs said "With 58 kilos, the way the race was run, he was always open to be run down by a lighter-weighted horse. I let him stride at the 600 metres which is what Fred wanted. I knew he would be vulnerable to a lighter-weighted horse in the last 50 metres but he just kept going."
The next week the Caulfield Cup winner returned to Moonee Valley and repeated his feat of the previous year in winning the Cox Plate. In a high quality year, Northerly raced past Sunline (fourth) at the top of the straight, and held off Defier and Grandera, with Fields Of Omagh and equal-favourite Lonhro further back. Speaking after his amazing spring, legendary Racing Steward Des Gleeson said that Northerly was "The champion of his era. His Caulfield Cup win was brilliant with the big weight, and he backed up in the Cox Plate and blitzed them. He has a big motor."
Trainer Fred Kersley ruled out running Northerly in the 2002 Melbourne Cup and reasoned that because he would have to carry 60 kilograms over 3,200 metres, and the fact that he possibly might not have stayed the trip, it may have taken too great a toll. In the week leading up to the Cox Plate, the eventual Melbourne Cup winner, Media Puzzle, had burst into calculations by winning the Geelong Cup by more than three lengths, and Northerly would have been conceding 7.5 kilograms to the imported galloper.
After a brilliant spring, Northerly's campaign autumn in 2003 failed to reach the same heights. Wins in the St George Stakes and the Australian Cup (by four lengths) were interspersed with defeats in the Orr Stakes and the Victoria Gold Cup, where he was defeated as a long-odds-on favourite by the hitherto unheralded Mr Trickster. In Sydney, Northerly was also odds-on favourite in his three starts, but failed to win. In the Ranvet Stakes, he was run down by Republic Lass; in the Manion Cup, he was unplaced; in The BMW Stakes, Freemason set a course-record pace, and Northerly was unable to run him down, as the two horses dueled over the final 800 metres.
Nonetheless, Northerly was a decisive winner of the Horse of the Year Award.
Sadly, in August 2003 swelling was found in his off-foreleg. This revealed a torn tendon, and with it, Northerly's career seemed over.
Attempting to buck the odds, Northerly returned to the track in August 2004. Months of speculation ended when Northerly galloped and then trialled successfully. A crowd of 30,000 descended on Belmont racecourse in Perth to see the return of a champion. It so very nearly turned out to be a fairytale return. Carrying 64.5 kilograms, Northerly was fourth most of the way and got to the lead in sight of the winning post, only to be swamped on the line. It was a great effort, but after substandard performances in the Underwood and Turnbull Stakes (both of which he had won in previous campaigns), Fred Kersley immediately retired him.
Legendary racing writer Les Carlyon wrote of Northerly: "He fools you every time he races. He has the body language of a loser and a heart as big as the Nullarbor. He invariably looks to be struggling, a shambles of a horse blundering around on memory while his jockey pumps and blusters. Then he gets going. One instant Northerly looks beaten, the next he looks unbeatable. The closer he gets to the post, the harder he tries. He grinds on. And on. And on. He simply refuses to be beaten."
Flemington 2000 m, 1:59.4 (Australian Cup 2001) (This race and track record was broken in 2005 by Makybe Diva.)
Caulfield 1600 m, 1:35.1 (Carlyon Cup 2001)
Millionaire Racehorses in Australia