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02/03/02 Northerly Hot For Cup after St George Success
0302northerly.jpg (10055 bytes)Champion Perth galloper Northerly sent a warning to his Australian Cup rivals when he led home a West Aussie one-two finish in this afternoon's $201,000 Group Two St George Stakes (1800m) at Caulfield this afternoon.

The hot favourite looked in serious trouble before the turn but the floodgates opened when the leaders fanned a galorious run was presented to the reigning Cox Plate winner.

Winning jockey Damien Oliver, who brought up a double after the earlier win of the Lee Freedman trained Our Webster, likened Northerly to a championship boxer.

"Whenever he's under pressure or on the ropes he just responds so well," he said. "If he's down and out on the canvass he just lifts himself off and wins."

Oliver also said the Serheed gelding was the horse to be on in a tight finish.

"He just wins all of the close finishes, he just tries his heart out and it's a delight to ride a horse of his quality," Oliver added.

Fred Kersley confessed after the race to being a little nervous during the run, when for a few moments it looked as though he may not get a crack at those runners in front of him.

"It's just great," Kersley beamed. "You just can't keep a champion down."

After his "sensational win" today Kersley now has the gelding in great shape for Monday week's $1.25 million Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington.

Kersley had predicted his gelding to be toward the front of the field but with early pressure his rider had chosen to sit behind the hot speed.

"We were thinking leading would have been okay but I think the tactics from the other runners were there to try and bring him down," Kersley said.

Oliver was all praise to Northerly's courage after the race, saying he was clearly headed after originally hitting the front at the top of the straight.

"Cent Home got to nearly three quarters (of a length) in front of us and then he fought like a tiger to level back up and then draw clear," Oliver recalled.

One thing that must be playing on his Cup rival's minds would be the ease he went to the line with over the final 50 metres of the Group Two event.

Kersley praised the runner-up and fellow Perth galloper Old Comrade who backed up well from last week's Oakleigh Plate to finish a gallant second.

The handy Roger James trained mare Piper Star ran her usual honest race to be a breath away in third place.

Last year's Melbourne spring carnival Cups heroine Ethereal made good late ground to finish in fifth place, just behind Cent Home.

PIC - Quentin Lang.

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