Luckie Karabitsakos was “over the moon” when his Shepparton Cup hero Hard Style Rico equalled the Bendigo 425m track record in his heat of the Group 2 Triple M Bendigo Cup on Sunday afternoon.
Hard Style Rico, which broke the Shepparton 450m record in the Cup heats in March, made a sensational Bendigo debut in the seventh of eight Cup heats, clocking 23.378s, with Jim Zarr Dashian holding the benchmark at 23.371s.
However, his enthusiasm was tempered in the very next heat when another superstar in Shima Shine sensationally broke the record, posting 23.352s.
“I thought I had the fastest dog in the world after Hard Style Rico won his heat and then Shima Shine stole the crown in the next race,” Karabitsakos laughed.
“But I’ve always loved Shima Shine and it’s great to see him back. He’s definitely the one to beat in the final.”
WATCH: Hard Style Rico win his Bendigo Cup heat from box one.
Hard Style Rico, a three-time Group 1 finalist early in 2020 in the Silver Chief, National Derby and Australian Cup, was resuming from one month’s break when he made his first appearance at Bendigo as the $1.60 favourite from box one in his Cup heat.
The son of Bella Infrared and Bella Rico gave nothing else a chance, delighting his Pearcedale-based owner/trainer/breeder as he reeled off scintillating sections en route to defeating Flossing by six lengths, boosting his impressive record to 13 from 26.
“He equalled the first split record (6.36s), broke the second split record (11.02s) and equalled the track record,” said Karabitsakos.
“He was coming off a three-week freshen up too.
“The dog had a couple of niggling issues and needed a few weeks off to get over them.
“He’s a little bit underdone but when these big races come around you’ve got to have a go at them and with the 425m distance I wasn’t too worried.
“I trialled him the week before at Bendigo and he went 23.39s first look. He ran 6.46s and 11.18s in his trial.
“I thought he could break the record on Sunday and he found a couple of lengths in the first split and two and a half lengths in the second split but it’s hard to do it at both ends.”
As expected standout heat performers Shima Shine and Hard Style Rico head TAB’s market on Friday night’s $50,000 to-the-winner Cup Final.
Shima Shine is $2.60 favourite from box five, with Hard Style Rico the $3.20 second elect after drawing box two, while fellow big gun Tiggerlong Tonk is on the third line of betting at $3.50 from box six.
“He likes it out wide but I’m happy with the draw,” said Karabitsakos.
“There’s speed on the inside and speed on the outside but going through the field I think everybody is drawn to run their line to the first mark.
“As I said, Shima Shine is the main danger. It’s good to see a couple of 500m dogs with speed make the final.
“It was great to win the Shepparton Cup and all going well we can get another one but I’m also looking at it as a nice progression to the (Group 1) Maturity at The Meadows.”