Young Anakie trainer Jack Campbell jokes that Aston Pirate needed a lasso to rope in sensational Ballarat To The Meadows heat winner Hard Style Rico when they clashed on Ballarat Cup night.
Having his first start for 29-year-old Campbell, Aston Pirate was left in Hard Style Rico’s wake as the winner clocked a near-record 24.77s, eclipsing Western Envoy’s Ballarat Cup-winning time of 24.85s, where Melbourne Cup hero Whiskey Riot finished second.
Aston Pirate will now face the daunting task of turning the tables on Hard Style Rico when he steps up to 500m for the first time in Saturday night’s Ballarat To The Meadows Final.
“Hard Style Rico was only two-hundredths outside the Ballarat record,” Campbell said.
“It’s not often you run 25.40-odd at Ballarat and get beaten by the length of the straight!
“It’s a pretty even race, apart from the two heat winners, and they’ve both drawn a bit awkwardly.”
WATCH: Aston Pirate (B5) and Hard Style Rico (B7) in a heat of the Ballarat to The Meadows.
While Hard Style Rico, trained by Luckie Karabitsakos, set Ballarat alight in his scorching heat victory, the other heat winner, Jeff Britton’s Mepunga Wonder, was also impressive in a runaway 24.93s success.
Another factor in Hard Style Rico’s favour is that he has already won two from three over 525m at The Meadows, breaking 30 seconds in both victories, while track and distance represent testing new frontiers for Aston Pirate.
“We think he’ll run 500 but that will probably be his mark,” said Campbell.
“He can show early pace, which is a benefit, and Saturday’s race will probably come down to what happens when the boxes open. He’d need to lead and set up a break because Hard Style Rico looks pretty good.
“I’d say he’s a place chance if he can get out of the boxes well.”
Greyhound racing is very much a family affair for Campbell, a former lure driver with GRV, and partner Monique, who train out of a property owned by Jack’s father, Glenn, and his partner, Mandy Shaw.
“I went away from greyhounds for a long time,” said Campbell.
“I was working in the mines in Roxby Downs in South Australia in 2013 and then I saw a greyhound property for rent in Drouin. We went from Drouin to Shepparton and then to Anakie. Between me and Dad we’ve got about 25 race dogs.
“Aston Pirate was previously trained by a friend of Dad and Mandy’s, but he was scaling down a bit, hence we got him to train.
“Aston Pirate is still learning. He’s been a handy dog so far and while he probably hasn’t set the track alight yet, he has a go and that’s what you want in this day and age.”