He was renowned for his fighting qualities but this was one battle Northerly could not win.
The champion galloper was euthanased on Wednesday night, aged 15, after failing to recover from a severe colic attack.
His death came in the same week the sport lost another great in dashing frontrunner Vo Rogue.
Like Vo Rogue, Northerly rose to greatness from humble beginnings and captured the heart of a nation.
Pulled from his dam at birth, motionless and cold, Northerly's story was almost over before it began.
He only came to life after his owner Neville Duncan massaged his heart and it was that same heart for which Northerly became renowned.
Greg Childs, who had an unblemished record aboard the star, said he possessed all the qualities of a champion.
"It's like all good horses, their tenacity, their aggression, their will to win. Northerly was exactly like that," Childs said on Sydney's Sky Sports Radio on Thursday.
"He never travelled like a winner during the run but it was when the chips were down when he would lift and he did that on many occasions."
Trained by revered horseman Fred Kersley, Northerly began his career at Ascot in Perth in the autumn of 2000 and landed the first of his nine Group One wins in the Railway Stakes later that year.
Claiming his first Australian Cup at Flemington in 2001, Northerly became a regular in Melbourne during carnival time.
He overhauled another champion in Sunline to win the 2001 Cox Plate and returned the following year to defend his title.
Damien Oliver was aboard for the first Cox Plate victory with Childs riding Sunline and Childs said it was testament to the gelding's courage that he won.
"I kicked clear on the turn, Damien was under the bat on Northerly and going nowhere but he got up and beat me right on the line," Childs said.
"If you watch the replay you would never have thought he'd win that Cox Plate but that's how courageous and tough he was.
"He never travelled like a winner but always was the last man standing at the end."
In between his Cox Plate victories, Northerly showed he wasn't just a weight-for-age star when he shouldered 58kg to a memorable Caulfield Cup win.
Sydney never saw the best of him.
Northerly suffered shock defeats at his only three starts there in the autumn of 2003, including his narrow second to Freemason in The BMW after the pair staged a stirring duel up the Rosehill straight.
It was one of the few close fights Northerly didn't win.
"Northerly was a good old-fashioned champion," Kersley said in the book on Northerly's life.
"He did it tough and never quit.
"For me there will never be another Northerly. He stands alone."
All up Northerly raced 37 times for 19 wins before his career was ended by a tendon injury.
He was the 2003 Horse Of The Year and is a member of racing's Hall Of Fame.
Childs said he felt privileged to have played a part in the champion's story.
"I'm just thankful I was part of Northerly's great career," Childs said.
"The Australian Cup, the Caulfield Cup. Six rides for six wins.
"It was special."