The passion of the rider Nicole Di Costanzo

by Chris Lomon

The timing was even better than Nicole Di Costanzo had imagined.

It was a dream she had held for more than eight years, one where she would cross the wire first and head to the winner’s circle at a standardbred racetrack in her home state of New Jersey.

On the night of January 7, 2022 at The Meadowlands, the driver in black, white and gray felt she had a good chance of seeing that dream come true.

She still felt that way after the starter car flew away and Rockabilly Charm, a 7-year-old son of Rock N Roll Heaven, escaped ninth.

“There were 10 horses and we left penultimate. I knew he would be good that night, but I hadn’t really estimated how good he would be.

Ejected at 9-1, Rockabilly Charm, bred by Glenview Livestock Ltd., and owned by Victoria D’Alessandro, made his 107and carrier start.

Di Costanzo, who had already won several races as a trainer, continued his decisive victory on the road bike in the amateur race of the GSY series.

Fifth and rolling into half-time, the duo gained momentum and knocked out their rivals with almost every stride, continuing their race forward into the corner.

“When I took him out, he never stopped coming. As soon as I tipped him three deep, I knew he was going to keep going.

And that’s exactly what the hard-working gelding managed to do.

On the wire, Rockabilly Charm headed in 1:55.4.

“It was amazing. You wait so long for a moment like this and then it happens. It’s a bit of a shock. You try to put it all together in your mind and it’s really kind of surreal. I’ve always imagined that day in my head, but when you’re standing there in the winner’s circle, there’s nothing on your mind but happiness.

Di Costanzo had another reason to smile again a week later when she teamed with Rockabilly Charm to win at Freehold.

“That feeling you get when you win is something you will never tire of.”

Especially for someone who still finds it hard to believe how she ended up in the harness racing industry.

“I never thought my life would turn out like this. I really don’t have any racing experience. I was never really interested. My grandfather, he owned thoroughbreds, but I hadn’t not really interested in any of it Basically I knew it from the moment I first sat behind a horse I was about 15 and knew from that day that I wanted it I bought my first horse, Steady Pulse, eight years ago and still have him today. I was interested in owning, but hadn’t really thought about becoming a trainer at that time- there. I got my first set of colors when I was 16 and started training my own horses and a few for other people. I started to really like it and I knew that I had to go out and get my coaching license.

In 2018, his rookie season as a coach, Di Costanzo, who would launch his racing life a year later, had four wins and 17 top three finishes in 70 starts.

After picking up two wins in each of the next two campaigns, she had a banner year in 2021, one in which she recorded 15 wins in 120 starts and $257,264 in stock market earnings, both career-best numbers.

The majority of her success came at Yonkers Raceway, where she won 10 times and raced her peacemaker Uptown Funk in the open handicap.

Currently, she has six horses in her stable.

“I’ve been going to the barn since I was 15 and I remember the days of waking my mom up at 5:30 in the morning and saying, ‘It’s time to get up…we have to go to the barn. barn! I have to see my horse. Once I got him [Steady Pulse]and I had a reason to be there every day, I never looked back and thought I wanted to do something else.

These days, Di Costanzo has a lot more to look forward to.

The drive to succeed, she noted, has never been stronger.

“I really want to keep driving. I really enjoy it. I don’t get a lot of records, but when I do it’s something I love. Eventually I’d like to get a few to start driving. I want to keep training and get between 10 and 15 horsepower. The best part of being a trainer is watching them every week.

Victory, top four or exit from the table, Di Costanzo always wears a broad smile when she returns home after the end of the races.

“Even if they don’t do well, I still have a reason to be happy. I never blame myself if I have a bad week because I can come to the stable the next day and find there are more horses and I’ve come this far.

Di Costanzo is making the most of his time away from the racetrack.

Whenever she gets the chance, travel is at the top of her list.

“I have made it a point to enjoy life outside of racing. I commit to taking my horses out twice a year for a week or 10 days and going on vacation. I cannot get on a plane pretty fast. I want to travel the world. I’ve been to Denmark, Sweden, Mexico, Jamaica, and many places in Florida.

Her trip to Sweden was the perfect combination of exploring somewhere new and spending time with horses.

“When I was there, I learned to train horses. I went to Johan Untersteiner’s barn, and I got to sit behind some horses for him. It was an amazing experience. I liked it. It was the heart of winter and it was very cold. It was pouring rain, but I was there, all smiles.

It’s a familiar look for the young rider who has come a long way in a short time, in a sport that at one time was never on her radar.

Now she can’t imagine being anywhere else.

“I just want to keep working hard in all aspects of what I do. I love what I do.”

It certainly shows.