Yorkshire Flame burns brightly again as Costello ends drought

DOUGIE Costello’s brilliant JCB Triumph Hurdle win on Yorkshire hurdler Countryside Flame epitomised the highs and lows of racing.

This is a rider who watched last year’s Festival in hospital after breaking a leg on the very eve of Cheltenham.

A year on, and the likable Costello was celebrating the biggest win of his career – and his first Festival triumph – after he powered home Malton-based John Quinn’s 33-1 chance in a race that traditionally produces future Champion Hurdle contenders.

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Yet, coming down the Cheltenham hill before the turn for home, John Francome – the former champion jockey and Channel Four Racing’s pundit – would have offered 100-1 on Countryside Flame winning.

Second on his hurdling debut at Wetherby last October, he threaded his way through a high-quality field before pulling three lengths clear of Irish raider Hisaabaat (20-1), with Alan King’s 5-1 favourite back in third.

It was also a spectacular way for Costello, who rides for several Malton trainers, to end a 66-race losing streak that had started to become more than a mild irritation.

“I was getting knocked about going to two out and I thought I would just try and find some room going to the last,” explained the winning rider.

“He pricked his lugs and flew the last. It’s great for all the lads in the yard.”

As for Quinn, this was his first Festival triumph since Character Building’s 2009 triumph – and the first of three Northern-trained horses to prevail on an unforgettable afternoon for racing in these parts.

He has always rated this four-year-old bay gelding who had been previously placed in Grade One contests at Chepstow and Leopardstown – his previous racing experience at the highest level was probably the difference in the Triumph.

“He’s never run a bad race yet but I did think he had to find plenty to win,” said Quinn. “He’s very tough and hardy and stuck at it really well. He’s not very big, and got buffeted about, but I’m really pleased.”