By ANDREW THOMSON
DYNAMIC sprinter Hard Style Rico is not only a boom chaser but may be the outcross greyhound sire that Australia needs in years to come.
Bred, owned and trained by Pearcedale mentor Luckie Karabitsakos, the brindle Bella Infrared-Bella Rico 32.5kg dog has made five group finals in his first 20 starts.
That included 11 wins and four placings and success in the Shepparton Cup, when he downed Melbourne Cup winner Whiskey Riot a week after Hard Style Rico set a new track record in the heats.
His dam lines go back to highly regarded brood bitch Sabby\’s Image which threw Buka Sunset (31 wins from 67 starts including the Horsham and Bendigo cups and Richmond Derby and he finished second in a Melbourne Cup) and handy city performer Rich Marzipan, who threw talented sprinter On The Payroll.
But it hasn\’t all been plain sailing for Hard Style Rico who copped a massive check in his career opening race at Ballarat, but flew home for second before winning his second start at Ballarat in a stunning 25.01.
He soon after saluted at The Meadows in 29.79, won again in similar time at the same venue before heading to Ballarat for a grade five which he won in a blistering 24.77, just 2/100ths of a second behind Shima Shine\’s track record.
It was the tenth race of the night when the track was well used, indicating Hard Style Rico may have broken the record earlier in the evening.
He then ran the fastest time in the heats and the semi-finals of the Silver Chief (29.63 at The Meadows) before finishing sixth in the final behind Simon Told Helen.
Hard Style Rico ($2.80) then won the Group Two Shepparton Cup after a 24.77 track record effort in the heats downing $2.50 favourite winner Whiskey Riot in the final.
That was followed by a 29.31 run at Sandown on a wet night which earned him a place in the Easter Gift final against a crack field.
Karabitsakos said he would set Hard Style Rico for the Warrnambool Cup, hoping racing continues despite the coronavirus.
\”He does handle the one-turn tracks but he goes well around two turns as well,\” he said.
\”He takes a big stride so he just needs clean air for the first few steps of a race and then he\’s away.
\”He\’s suited to Warrnambool and he\’s had a trial there when he was young and went 25.17. That was a fair run on a trial track at 8am on a Saturday morning a long time ago after we took him for a four-hour drive.\”
Karabitsakos said his kennel star had matured with travel and racing.
\”He had a few outside boxes and likes the room wider. He drew inside in a few of the group finals and had dogs coming down on him, but with racing he\’s becoming a harder, tougher race dog capable of holding his own position,\” he said.
\”On a horseshoe track he can muster pace from any box. In the Shepparton Cup he showed what he can do from box eight.
\”He\’s developing into a proper race dog.\”
The trainer said Hard Style Rico was learning as he worked into his racing career.
\”He\’s had that 20 starts now. A couple of times in those big races he\’s been crowded by mad railers on the outside of him.
\”Last Hurrah drew outside him in the Australian Cup and he\’s the last dog you want to be on the inside of and both Simon Told Helen and Who Told Stevie were outside him in the Silver Chief and came across.
\”But he does have an amazing stride. People often think he\’s a lot bigger than what he is.
\”He broke the record at Shepparton and nudged it at Ballarat late in the night.
\”There\’s a few old blokes getting around saying he\’s at about the same as Fernando Bale was at the same time of their careers.
\”Only time will tell how far this dog can go, but he is a genuine race dog.\”
Karabitsakos said to be compared with Fernando Bale was a huge rap and Hard Style Rico was being talked about in the same breath as Hooked On Scotch as one of the fastest greyhounds in Australia.
\”I\’ve never had a dog anywhere near him. My brother had Black Mumbo ($288,000 in prizemoney) and he was a superior race dog, but this dog has already broke a track record and on a good night I think he can go under 29 seconds at Sandown and give the record a shake,\” he said.
\”The Shepparton Cup was a big win and showed what he is capable of. He went in a bit underdone because of the coronavirus but then broke the record and was pretty close again in the final so he\’s capable of backing up.
\”To win against Whiskey Riot, who is a super race dog was a good effort. He\’s seasoned, fast and very good in a field.
\”That\’s what this dog is still working to become, more seasoned and a better race dog.
\”When I took him to Shepparton as a pup he ran 25.00 and then went back and broke the track record. I\’m hoping he can do something similar at Warrnambool.
\”He\’s won good races when his preparation has not been 100 per cent, he\’s shown plenty of guts and with that attitude he can go on to win good races.\”
Karabitsakos said his sprinter knew when it was race day.
\”I\’m looking at him now and he\’s totally relaxed but he feels my nerves on race day. He knows it\’s race day. He\’s a much better traveller now. He\’s matured.
\”The experience of going to Sydney helped. He was in someone else\’s kennel, it taught him a lot and he\’s a lot more settled, just more mature. I\’m hoping he just gets better with racing.\”
The trainer said that with the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic he would wait and see what happens in terms of future planning.
\”If there\’s a break for a couple of months or whatever, we\’ll look at taking some straws off him,\” he said.
\”He\’s certainly that outcross and breeders are already very interested in him. There\’s a waiting list already.\”
Karabitsakos said everyone was having to get used to living with a pandemic.
\”Last start he was up half a kilogram in weight after I couldn\’t get the lean meat I usually get. I had to buy meat at a different place and I knew it was fatty but I\’ve got my butcher back now and hopefully we can just keep racing,\” he said.
\”His first section is getting more consistent and with that fraction of room early he can show what he can really do.\”