Proud owner/trainer/breeder Luckie Karabitsakos is hopeful home-grown excitement machine Hard Style Rico can continue his meteoric rise to stardom in Saturday night’s heats of the Group 1 Feikuai Greyhounds Silver Chief (525m).
Hard Style Rico has started only nine times but has created a huge impression in notching five victories, announcing himself as a serious Silver Chief threat with his last two wins.
On Ballarat Cup night, the son of Bella Infrared and Bella Rico clocked a near-record 24.77s, just .02s outside Shima Shine’s 450m benchmark, upstaging Ballarat Cup winner Western Envoy (24.85s) in the process.
He then completed his Silver Chief preparation last Saturday, clocking a best of night 29.67s in the Ballarat To The Meadows Final, his third win from four visits to The Meadows.
WATCH: Hard Style Rico’s win at Ballarat from box seven.
“He’s going super. I couldn’t be happier,” said Luckie Karabitsakos.
“When I saw his sectionals at Ballarat I thought he’d really stepped it up.
“He’s learning and getting more confidence with every race. He’s really letting go now and his times and results are showing that.
“I whelped him down, reared him, broke him in – I’ve done just about everything with him – and he’s been showing what he can do from day dot.
“When I was pre-training him the times he was running were phenomenal. At his first box-to-box at Sandown he ran 5.05, 18.70. That was at 15 months of age.”
Hard Style Rico will step up to Group company for the first time on Saturday when he’s confronted with box five as TAB’s $2 favourite in the second of eight cut-throat Silver Chief heats.
The lightly-raced prodigy is $9 in all-in betting, behind series heavyweights Shima Shine, the $5 favourite, Melbourne Cup runner-up Western Envoy and litter brothers Simon Told Helen and Who Told Stevie, all at $6.
“I’ve only been in the game five or six years so these are all milestones and massive achievements for me,” said 38-year-old Pearcedale-based Karabitsakos.
“It’s a dream to have a dog like this fall into my lap. But I’m trying to stay as humble as I can and keep the fun in it. I’m lucky to have a good team behind me.
“When he ran 29.79 at his first start at The Meadows I starting looking ahead at the Silver Chief but being a young dog he had to prove himself and he deserves a crack at it. That will be the plan; to target these age-restricted races.
“There are a couple of handy dogs in his heat – there’s always going to be in races like this – so he’ll have to do everything right. If he does, he’ll be a good contestant.”
Hard Style Rico isn’t the first success story the Karabitsakos family have enjoyed with his line, with his mother, Bella Rico, being a litter sister to Black Mumbo, which Luckie’s brother, Anthony, guided to victory in the Group 1 Harrison-Dawson in 2017.
“My dad, Frank, was in greyhounds, for 30 or 40 years, so I’ve been around them all my life,” Luckie explained.
“But when dad passed away, he left a couple of dogs behind so I decided to help my brother out.
“Bella Rico is Black Mumbo’s sister and I spoke to Anthony about which sire to go to and he suggested an outcross, so I got a Bella Infrared straw.
“There were eight in the litter and I’ve also got Red Light Rico, which has only had six starts and he’s run 29.62s at Sandown, so he’s got a motor himself.
“Bella Rico has had a second litter to Barcia Bale. There’s eight in the litter and they’re about ten weeks old and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do.”