DOUGIE COSTELLO intends to treat the Investec Derby as “just another race” when he seeks Epsom glory tomorrow on the North Yorkshire-trained Biodynamic.
Less than a year after he switched codes from National Hunt to the Flat, it is a measure of Costello’s horsemanship – and the confidence of connections – that he has been entrusted with such a high-profile ride by in-form trainer Karl Burke.
Even though Biodynamic is one of the least fancied of the 16 runners, the jockey is relishing the chance to ride in the hurly-burly of the Derby and will be helped by his big race experience from the jumping sphere. “To have a ride like this in my first season is great,” the rider told The Yorkshire Post.
“I’m over the moon and grateful to Karl Burke for giving me the chance.
“He’s got a one-in-16 chance. If you’re not in it, you can’t win it. It’s no different. It’s just another race.
“That’s how I see it. I’ve had plenty of experience of the big stage over the jumps.”
There is no doubting the ability of the popular Costello whose finest hour over jumps came when he won the JCB Triumph Hurdle at the 2012 Cheltenham Festival aboard John Quinn’s Countrywide Flame.
His most significant win on the Flat came just last Saturday when the Burke-trained Quiet Reflection streaked clear in the Grade Two Sandy Lane Stakes at Haydock and booked her place in Royal Ascot’s Commonwealth Cup later this month.
Like other riders who have switched codes to the Flat because their metabolism allows them to ride at lighter weights – and because the racing is more lucrative – Costello plays down the significance.
“You are still riding a horse with four legs and a tail,” he says. “The whole idea is get the most out of the horse through your horsemanship.
“Normally the best horse wins on the Flat unless something happens. With jumps, you can cajole one to win.”
Costello’s horsemanship was a decisive factor when he became stable jockey to Leyburn-based Burke last year. The trainer says a taller, and stronger, rider suits larger colts like Biodynamic who will need to make a quick break from stall seven in order to get a good position in the blue riband race.
Burke says he values “consistency” when it comes to riding arrangements and that Costello is not afraid “to muck in” at the yard because he is “a team player”.
“He’s a good person to have around,” added the trainer whose Libertarian was second at Epsom in 2013.
The 16 declared horses include five from Aidan O’Brien, headed by US Army Ranger. This colt beat Biodynamic at Chester last month and is the mount of Ryan Moore, who denied the aforementioned Libertarian when partnering Ruler Of The World to victory three years ago.
Meanwhile, Moore partners the O’Brien-trained Minding who is favourite for today’s Investec Oaks for fillies.
A brilliant winner of Newmarket’s 1000 Guineas, she suffered a shock defeat in the Irish equivalent nearly two weeks ago when the unheralded Jet Setting caused the racing upset of the year.
Though it subsequently emerged that Minding had banged her head in the stalls, injuring her sinus, O’Brien clearly has reservations about the horse’s ability to stay the mile-and-a-half trip.
In contrast, Godolphin and trainer Charlie Appleby supplemented Skiffle on the back of her win at Goodwood last month under William Buick and then Minding’s shock defeat in Ireland.
“She’s a nice filly and she’s done nothing wrong so far,” said Appleby. “She’s getting stronger all the time and we think she deserves her place in the race. I fully respect Minding. She was obviously beaten last time, but there were reasons for that with the conditions. Hopefully our filly can continue improving and if she runs into a place, I’ll be delighted.”
Sir Robert Ogden’s dual Group One winner Amazing Maria, the 2015 Yorkshire horse of the year, will take on the boys at Royal Ascot after the Queen Anne Stakes was confirmed as her target.
David O’Meara’s mare was a shock winner of the Duke of Cambridge Stakes at the showpiece meeting last summer, but proved it was no fluke with subsequent triumphs in the Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket and the Prix Rothschild at Deauville.
O’Meara, who trains near York, was happy with her comeback third in the Dahlia Stakes at Newmarket last month and while she has the option of defending her crown in the Duke of Cambridge, she will line up in the Royal meeting’s traditional curtain-raiser over the straight mile on June 14.
“We stuck to her own sex last year with her, so going against the boys is a bit of an unknown,” said O’Meara.