The pain of losing subsequent Golden Slipper winner She Will Reign is still driving Gold Coast trainer Michael Costa as he announces himself as one of the most promising up-and-coming trainers in the country.
Costa landed the biggest win of his career in the Group 2 Missile Stakes on Saturday at Randwick when Phobetor put a field of high-class sprinters to the sword, putting the emerging trainer on the map.
While high-profile trainers Lee Freedman and John Moore now call the Gold Coast home, the unheralded Costa has grabbed the headlines – boasting a winning strike rate in excess of 20 per cent every year since his move north in 2016.
With 40-odd boxes Costa’s operation is bursting at the seams with demand for more, however it wasn’t always that way.
It wasn’t unusual to see Costa in his early 20s roughing it in the back of his Holden Barina to save petrol.
With a move to the Gold Coast all but secured in 2016, Costa baulked when a promising filly named She Will Reign arrived in his stables but had his mind put to ease when he was told he could take her with him in the move north.
Phobetor storms to victory in the Group 2 Missile Stakes at Randwick. Picture: Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
“Before I came up I set up a satellite stable and it worked really well so I decided to make the move and that was on the basis we would get to keep She Will Reign,” he said.
“When I pulled the trigger on moving she ended up getting kept down there, that was the only difficult thing.
“If I knew that I would have stayed down in Sydney for 12 months or however long to get her through her career.”
The rest, as they say is history and She Will Reign went on to win the coveted Golden Slipper in 2017 along with the Group 1 Moir Stakes later that year before producing a $2m colt as a broodmare in Japan last month.
“It was difficult because you’re seeing her doing what she was doing, then there were teething problems up here like finding staff and learning the tracks and everything like that,” he said.
“It’s easy to look back and join dots but when you’re in it obviously there is some disappointment but I think it was actually a positive in a way because it’s almost like when you’re playing footy and they rub your head in the dirt – you get a bit more fired up.
“It gave me even more drive to work to the bone and see it through to make it work, I was extremely hungry even though it was painful.
Costa (right) with trainers Bjorn Baker. Picture: Glenn HampsonSource:News Corp Australia
“When I look back, even though it would have been one of the biggest injections to someone’s career, it would have come too soon for me.
“I feel like I am such a better trainer now without getting injected with good, high-quality horses. I feel like I have cut my teeth doing it organically.
“It’s not like boxing where the best boxer wins, it’s more like Formula 1 where there are so many variables where the guys with the best cars have a distinct advantage.”
With a solid group of loyal owners, Costa now wants to take the next step at the sales in an attempt to find his next She Will Reign to make up for the heartache of 2017.
Enjoying success with bargain buys, Costa wants to branch out into the more expensive market in an attempt to consistently compete at the top level.
“I am trying to work out the pieces to the puzzle when it comes to buying horses, it is a matter of getting the right people on the bus to join the team and believe in it,” he said.
“But we need more boxes, everyone needs more boxes and it’s just not there yet.”
As for Phobetor, Costa said he is mapping out “A, B and C plans” which include prolonged stints in Sydney and/or Melbourne depending on Covid-19 restrictions but reported the six-year-old arrived back at his stables on Tuesday “fit and well.”
Originally published asCosta driven to succeed by gutting Slipper pain
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