Before Makybe Diva came along, I considered Northerly, who died this week after a colic attack, to be the best race horse I ever saw in the flesh.
I can remember when he first came to Melbourne with huge raps on him for his performances in Perth. I can remember the commentators talking about his appearance in the mounting yard which was less than complimentary and according to them, his manners pre-race meant that he was ruled out as a winning chance.
But win he did, over and over again against all comers. The first time I saw him was at Caulfield in the Underwood Stakes where he took the lead early in the straight and looked a sitting duck for the VRC Oaks winner Magical Miss and the AJC Derby winner Don Eduardo. It sounds ridiculous but I’m quite sure Northerly saw Magical Miss coming at him and raised another effort to win. I reckon my theory was proved right when Old Comrade beat him in the Australian Cup, coming with one late run out wide on the track where Northerly couldn’t see him.
In my opinion, Northerly’s equal greatest performances were the 2002 Caulfield Cup and Cox Plate beating Fields of Omagh. I thought he’d win the Caulfield Cup after his performances leading in but I didn’t think he’d be able to drop back to the Cox Plate Distance in a week. In the end he won pretty comfortably and stamped his greatness as a dual Cox Plate winner. Only two horses had been able to win the Caulfield Cup/Cox Plate double before Northerly and none have done it since.
Vo Rogue died this week as well and there has been some discussion about his absence from the Hall of Fame. I never saw him race other than on video but his record is quite amazing. The unwritten ‘grand slam’ of Australian racing is the Melbourne Cup, Cox Plate, Caulfield Cup, Doncaster and BMW (Tancred) and the absence of one of those on Vo Rogue’s resume is probably what keeps him out of the Hall of Fame.