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Wed 2 June 2021

By Jordan Gerrans

Coming from a varied background within the racing industry, up-and-coming Gold Coast trainer Michael Costa understands there is more to a stable than a fit horse come race day.

Working as a track work rider, stable foreman and steward in his earlier days, on top of studying equine science, acupuncture and massage, Costa has built up a unique resume compared to many other trainers in the Sunshine State.

Wearing countless different hats in the racing game has paved the way for an emerging powerful stable, and for the second season in a row the Costa team has one of the best strike rates in Australia.

As well as regular success at the races, Costa and his team present a professional outfit, diving head first into promoting themselves and the industry itself through extensive social media work as well as video productions.

While at the end of the day it is about having a horse that is fit and well at the races, Costa believes doing the “one percenters” on top of winning races will lead to his stable’s growth.

“You are trying to add value to your client data base, if you can have the barn that is adding the most value then hopefully the owners come and it becomes an arms race for the trainers to have the best horses in the barn,” he says.

“The way of the world, everyone is on their phones and everyone is expecting more video content - that is key.

“Being a trainer now is not just getting a horse fit, we are wearing many hats and one of those is being more of an entertainment marketing company than we are a training operation.

“I would love to just pot around the barn and train horses, if you are just doing that then you will not get the horses in the future.”

Gold Coast-based hoop Jag Guthmann-Chester is a regular at the Costa operation in the mornings and has developed into one of their main riders.

The 22-year-old says the Costa’s social media presence has helped bring new eyeballs into the racing industry and helped others understand more about his riding.

“The last few seasons I have built up a bit of a relationship with the Costa team and he is someone I like working for,” Guthmann-Chester said.

“He is a young trainer on the way up, he is very professional in the way he runs his stable and organisation, in the workplace and away from the workplace as well.

“He is big on the social media, keeping his owners and fans updated, and in today’s day and age, that is how it needs to be.

“He is an easy bloke to ride for and I like riding for him, he does not put pressure on me, he relies on me to get the job done.”

Going from a steward to training is an unusual path for some, but Costa believes it helps his stable these days.

Costa worked as a Metropolitan Stipendiary Steward, the Deputy Chairman of the Northern Rivers Racing Association before returning to Sydney to join the Metropolitan panel as a Senior Steward.

“Being a steward was a good steppingstone and learning curve of how jockeys think and learning to read a race,” he said.

“Once it comes down to horsemanship, I think you just need to get the horses fit and well.”

Guthmann-Chester, who has got the best out of Costa stable star Axe in recent months, believes the expanding stable will be one to watch into the future.

“He is a young trainer and I believe as he grows into the coming years, he will make his way up the ranks,” Guthmann-Chester said.

“You cannot fault his training; he is certainly doing it right and his strike-rate says that.

“He does not have as many runners as some of the big teams, but his strike rate was top five in Australia in that category and that is something he should be proud of.

“Next coming seasons, he will only get better and better.”

Team Costa go hunting for more TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival riches this Saturday at Eagle Farm as Purrfect Deal heads towards the $500,000 Sapphire Stakes.

The four-year-old mare is a winner of five from eight starts and is a perfect example of Costa’s extensive social media work helping his team of horses.

He purchased the Dundeel mare for $16,000 from the Inglis Classic Sale and couldn’t understand why he battling to sell shares in her at first.

But, a team of owners from around the country, mainly based in Sydney, with some in the Sunshine State, eventually snapped up Purrfect Deal and they got their cash back, and then some, quick smart.

Costa described Purrfect Deal as a “little sweetheart” around his Aquis Park stables but says she is “tough as old boots” when it comes to her racing style.

She won a Class 4 on the Sunshine Coast last start and while she faces Group 1 winners this Saturday in the Sapphire Stakes, Costa thinks Purrfect Deal has earnt her chance to have a throw at the stumps in a big race.

“She definitely has come on, we left a little bit in the tank for that first-up run and she really, really has improved,” Costa said.

“She is now taking on the big boys, we have been taking care of her thus far, running her through the grades, and now she looks towards a decent race.

“She is a mare that has shown she will get over a bit more ground and blinkers go on, we were very happy with her gallop on Tuesday morning.

“She is a mighty mouse, she only weighs 440 kilograms, but she is tough and she needs to be thrown in the deep end eventually.”

Guthmann-Chester has ridden Purrfect Deal before on race day as well as in her gallops, and he says she gives him a nice feel and expects her to get up towards a mile-and-a-half into the future.

Brisbane-based hoop Ben Thompson takes the ride on Purrfect Deal this Saturday after winning well on her last start at Caloundra.

The Costa-trained Axe is another to follow from the stable through the TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival.

Both trainer and jockey were impressed with how Axe performed in the recent Group 3 BRC Sprint, finishing third – just over a length behind the winner - after winning three of his last four in the lead-up. 

The Written Tycoon gelding will now head towards the Listed Eye Liner Stakes later this month at Ipswich.

Guthmann-Chester is chasing back-to-back Eye Liner victories after piloting Bandipur last year for Kelly Purdy.

“Axe around Ipswich in a forward position, he will be hard to catch,” Costa said.

While it is satisfying to have an excellent strike rate with cheap horses, Costa says he is now also focussing on building a bigger black-type profile within his team.

Click here for full details on the 2021 TAB Queensland Winter Racing Carnival feature races.