In the most intriguing W.S. Cox Plate in years, Northerly can prove he has arrived as Australia's new superstar by foiling champion mare Sunline's bid for a third successive win. Four runners are winning chances and, tactically, the race promises a delicious duel that differs from the two Sunline has won before as two of her main opponents will be close in running. Unheralded in 1999, she dictated the race. Last year, her main rivals were backmarkers unable to put it to her and she shrugged them off on a lead-biased track to equal the record winning margin. The six-year-old mare's connections have been bitter at media reports - and a panel of handicappers - which rate Sunline as below her previous standard. They insist she had nothing to prove in lead-up races but no mare - and, indeed, only Kingston Town - has won the race three times, so all the eggs are in this basket. Sunline has the perfect draw. Greg Childs can look over and see what his rivals are doing early and he insists she doesn't have to lead but Damien Oliver believes the mare pulls too hard to be restrained. Oliver has been a critic of others for reluctance to take on Sunline, and he did with Go Flash Go when the mare was beaten this year on her return from Dubai. She still beat Go Flash Go comfortably, however, and that is Oliver's dilemma on Northerly. Northerly has won in the lead and from behind, as he did when giving Sunline three lengths from the 200 metres and nailing her on her merits in the Feehan Stakes. With knowledge of the latter, Oliver is likely to sit close without risking his chances by tackling her too soon and then trusting his mount can do again what he did in the Feehan. The dark horse is Universal Prince. Aimed at the Melbourne Cup, he has been ridden recently with that in mind - unemployed early and finishing like a coiled spring. He will be ridden quietly again but, with eight runners and so much prize-money, Justin Sheehan may ask him for something a little earlier and he is fully capable of sweeping around the field to win. And then there is Silvano, longer in Australian betting because punters are not familiar with him, but a proven traveller with the form through Jim And Tonic to beat Sunline. He is apparently over a slight leg infection he suffered during the journey and worked well on Tuesday. His connections are less frightened of Sunline than any, making the long trip having seen her in Hong Kong, knowing how she races and knowing she is the one to beat. Viscount needs to lift his form. In 30 years, just four three-year-olds have won - Taj Rossi, Surround, Red Anchor and Octagonal - and all of them were head and shoulders above their own age group and all of them winners when the older stars were not the vintage crop of this year. King Keitel, Referral and Caitano are well held as winning chances but don't forget them for the tierce plays, with King Keitel preferred. The Cox Plate has featured many an unlikely minor stake-earner at odds, picking up the crumbs after the heavyweights have chewed each other up for the main meal.