By Ray Hickson
Almost like a mantra, for months trainer David Payne has declared Costello as his Australian Derby horse.
And while he can’t go into the race as confident as he did a year ago with stable star Ace High, who finished the closest of seconds, Payne isn’t stepping back from his view that he has a serious contender.
Costello might be a $26 chance with TAB in the Group 1 $2m Harrolds Australian Derby (2400m) but according to the trainer he’s had a faultless preparation.
“He’s going well and it’s all systems go,’’ he said.
“We were going to go for the Victoria Derby but we had a setback and I think it might have been a blessing. He might have been a bit immature then.
“If you looked at the way he won at Hawkesbury as soon as we stepped him up in distance he was a different horse. He’s always shown he’s going to be a nice stayer.’’
You can’t go into a blue riband classic with a provincial maiden win as your major credential and Costello showed he was heading the right way with successive city wins in February.
Then Payne needed to test him against some of his potential Derby rivals in the Group 1 Rosehill Guineas (2000m) and though he didn’t trouble The Autumn Sun and company he showed he’s not without a hope.
Costello wins at Rosehill on February 27
Punter’s Intelligence data shows Costello ran the fourth fastest last 200m of 12.87 as he made ground from what Payne said was way too far back.
“We had to go back and nothing was making up ground but if you look at his sectionals they aren’t bad at all,’’ he said.
“He would have finished a lot closer if he could have been closer in the race. He had no option but to go back and he actually went too far back and had to make a long sustained run.
“We’d like him a bit closer, about five or six lengths off the speed.’’
Ace High, who is likely to be retired to stud, was beaten by the bob of the head by Levendi in last year’s Derby and Payne said there’s not a lot of comparisons between him and Costello.
One thing he’s certain of is his gelding will run the 2400m right out.
“A lot of them might not get the trip, my fellow should being by Americain,’’ he said.
“Ace High was classier than this fellow and had a bit more speed.
“I think he has to have a nice run and he will be competitive for sure. A nice even run with no interference.’’
Payne said no decision has been made yet on the future of Ace High, who didn’t appreciate the heavy track running last in the Tancred Stakes last weekend, but it’s possible he’s run his last race.