10/25/2002 11:00PM

Northerly scores repeat win in Australia's Cox Plate

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Northerly solidified his status as Australia's leading horse when he scored a length victory over Defier in the Group 1 W.S. Cox Plate at Moonee Valley on Saturday.

A winner of the Group 1 Caulfield Cup last week, Northerly raced near the lead throughout the 1 1/4-mile-and-40-yard race and took the lead from the mare Sunline with a furlong remaining.

Grandera, a Godolphin horse who shipped from England, finished third, a neck behind Defier. Sunline, a two-time Cox Plate winner, finished fourth in the final race of her career.

Winning jockey Patrick Payne gained the mount on the 6-year-old Northerly when her regular rider, Greg Childs, chose to stick with Sunline.

"The plan was to stalk her [Sunline] and it worked to perfection," said trainer Fred Kersley. "I'm so grateful to train a horse like this. It's taken me a long, long time to get a horse like Northerly."

Northerly, who also won last year's Cox Plate, was co-favored with Lonhro at 3-1. He could next race in the two-mile Melbourne Cup on Nov. 7. Northerly also secured an invitation to next year's Dubai World Cup, a $10 million race Kersley passed on this year to focus on races in Australia.

If Northerly were to win the Melbourne Cup he would be only the second horse in Australian racing history to take the Caulfield Cup, Cox Plate, and Melbourne Cup in the same year. That racing triple was achieved by Rising Fast in 1954.

* At Doncaster in England, Brian Boru extended trainer Aidan O'Brien's dominance in the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster with a 1 1/4-length victory over stablemate Powerscourt.

O'Brien has now won the one-mile race for 2-year-olds four times in the last six years.

Illustrator, trained by Michael Stoute, closed strongly to finish third. O'Brien's other entrant, The Great Gatsby, finished fourth.

Each of the first three finishers was bred by Juddmonte Farms.

"We couldn't really separate the first two beforehand, but expected them to both run big races," said T.J. Camerford, a representative of O'Brien's stable."The horses can only progress from this."

As a son of Sadler's Wells, Brian Boru has many similarities with High Chaparral, who won this race last year and went on to win this year's Epsom Derby.