Coetzee aggression tames wayward Northern Hero

Murray Bell

Felix Coetzee's blossoming partnership with Tony Millard enjoyed another boost when Australian-bred three-year-old Northern Hero comfortably landed the afternoon opener at Sha Tin.

Northern Hero, well backed as $55 second favourite, responded to some early aggression from Coetzee that saw him put a lot of the waywardness that had thwarted his griffin campaign last season well and truly behind him.

'I rode him at his last run for the season in the Juvenile Championship and he got a long way back in the field that day,' Coetzee explained.

'But he ran home well and struck me as being a very nice horse for the future, once he learned a bit more and started to put it all together.

'I had been really looking forward to riding him again, but I've got to say I was a bit disappointed with his barrier trial on the all-weather track the other week.

'But in the light of the way he's won today, it may just be that he's not so comfortable on the dirt track and he's purely a turf horse.'

Northern Hero always looked to be in control of the race and forged clear shortly after turning for home. He ultimately held a 11/2-length margin over John Size's debutant Congratulation (Eric Saint-Martin), who rallied well after following Northern Hero most of the way.

Northern Hero is owned by Mr and Mrs Miao Hua-chi and Patrick Miao Yen-lai, the first owners to offer Millard a horse when he arrived from South Africa in the summer of 1999. That horse, Northern Flyer, became the trainer's third winner in the second month of his maiden Hong Kong season.