Sue Montgomery: Recession Proof delivers an upturn for Costello

Inside Track
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The Independent Online

The term journeyman could have been invented for Dougie Costello, as competent and likeable a fellow as there is in the weighing room who just gets on with his job, day by day.

His places of work are not usually the most glamorous; Costello's trail this past week could be traced from Hereford to Catterick, Folkestone, Musselburgh and Kelso. That's the bread and butter of the profession, the jam comes elsewhere.

"You can ride a winner at those midweek meetings," he said, "and give it a good ride as well, and no-one notices. But it's the Saturday horses that matter to someone like me. That's where you get the exposure, when the trainers and owners take notice."

All right, yesterday was not Saturday – though it should have been – but Costello won't split hairs. The Yorkshire-based, Co Galway-born 27-year-old advertised his skills in no uncertain style in the Totesport Trophy at Newbury to get Recession Proof, the least experienced jumper in the field, home by a short-head in the shootout to the line.

On his first venture against seasoned handicap hurdlers the John Quinn-trained five-year-old, a 12-1 shot, raced with the choke out early but, soon settled by his rider, had enough reserves conserved to fend off Bothy by a narrow but, if the flicking of his ears close to home was a guide, cosy enough margin.

"He was keen down the back straight," said Costello, "but I was able to get a breather into him, I didn't want him to be racing too soon. He's got that pace to be able to travel and in this sort of company you need that sort of class. But then the boss has tutored him through very well."

Had the Totesport Trophy been run on its due date (it was postponed, along with the rest of the card, after the well-documented grim events of a week ago at the Berkshire course) it would have been his most valuable victory. But its transfer to a lower-profile day meant its purse was halved in value to £60,000.

It is back to the day job for Costello this afternoon; he has one ride at Wincanton, and then is off to Sedgefield tomorrow and Carlisle on Monday. But he now has a third covetable mount at Cheltenham next month, along with novice chaser Wayward Prince and Gold Cup hope Midnight Chase. Recession Proof was cut from 40-1 to as short as 10-1 for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and his experience in yesterday's crucible – he jumped notably well – will serve him well back against his peers.

There were other Cheltenham pointers yesterday, and will be plenty more today round the country. At Newbury, Aiteen Thirtythree laid out his credentials for the RSA Chase with a foot-perfect, wide-margin victory; this afternoon at Ascot his Paul Nicholls stablemate The Minack will be aiming to do the same in the the Reynoldstown Chase.

Their five-times champion trainer notched a one-two in Newbury's Aon Chase, though not as the market saw it; Noland, at 13-2, beat What A Friend, the 4-5 favourite, by a head. The runner-up's joint-owner Sir Alex Ferguson will not be wanting a similar upset against Crawley Town at Old Trafford today.

Despite his defeat, What A Friend, who was conceding 10lb, will run in the Gold Cup. "I might put blinkers on him then," said Nicholls, "it worked with See More Business." Another of the yard's Gold Cup candidates, the upwardly mobile Pride of Dulcote, will have his pretensions to the highest class tested in the Grade 1 Ascot Chase this afternoon by, among others, the King George VI Chase runner-up Riverside Theatre. A keen observer will be Ruby Walsh, who tomorrow is due to ride out for the first time since breaking a leg in November.

Bothy's good effort in the Totesport Trophy paid a compliment to one of the Champion Hurdle market leaders, Menorah, who gave him weight and a beating at Cheltenham in November. The focus will be on the Festival hurdling crown again today, when Alan King-trained Mille Chief faces four rivals in his final prep at Wincanton.

Turf Account: Chris McGrath


Sultan Fontenaille (2.00 Wincanton)

Creeping up the ratings as he resumes his career but may still be ahead of the game and, as a dour stayer, will be suited by today's return to a demanding test of stamina.

Next Best

Drill Sergeant (3.35 Ascot)

Not the most straightforward mentally, but ran well for a long way on his handicap debut in a better race at Kempton last month and, off the same mark, has his burden eased by his rider's claim.

One To Watch

The future for well-regarded Soir d'Estruval (A King) will ultimately be over fences, but he produced an eye-catching effort under a penalty on his first British hurdles run and will strip fitter next time.

Where The Money's Going

The notoriously moody Don't Push It looked much perkier than of late over hurdles at Newbury yesterday, seeing out his race well in seventh place, and has been clipped in most lists to 16-1 from 20s for a Grand National repeat.