Hard Style Rico, fastest qualifier for Saturday night’s Maturity Classic (525m) at The Meadows, has taken aim at Group 1 glory three times in 2020 but disappointingly for trainer Luckie Karabitsakos has fallen short on each occasion.
But after finishing unplaced (in order) in the Silver Chief, National Derby and Australian Cup, the Maturity looms as Hard Style Rico’s best chance yet.
“You can’t put a foot wrong in these Group 1 races – I know that very well now,” quipped Karabitsakos.
“The build-up is enormous. It’s like Christmas for kids and I’ve been waiting for Christmas to arrive four times now!”
Hard Style Rico was electrifying when setting the qualifying standard in last weekend’s Maturity heats, continuing his love affair with The Meadows with an all-the-way 29.67s gap job.
It was the Shepparton Cup winner’s sixth victory from nine 525m assignments at The Meadows and ominously there’s plenty of room for improvement as it was his first ‘500’ in almost two months.
“I reckon 100 per cent he’ll be better for the run,” said Karabitsakos.
“He had a few little nigglies so we gave him a few weeks off and brought him back for the Bendigo Cup. He was second last turning for home in the Bendigo Cup Final but only got beaten a length and a half.
“He stepped good last week and showed the ability he’s got.
“A lot of fast dogs went around in the heats and he went the best of the night. I’d say he’s 95 per cent now – he’s primed for Saturday night.”
Hard Style Rico has drawn box one and while Karabitsakos admits he would’ve preferred to be on the outside of TAB’s $1.95 favourite Simon Told Helen (box 3), he’s still viewed as the main threat as the $2.80 second elect.
“Simon Told Helen is definitely the one to beat,” said Karabitsakos.
“Hard Style Rico has got to step and if we can’t beat Simon Told Helen out hopefully he can tack on.
“We’ve run Simon Told Helen down before and I can’t see why we can’t do it again.
“I would’ve liked to draw on the other side of Simon Told Helen – box four would’ve suited me nicely – but it’s his home track and he’s got the cherry and if you look at the statistics that’s the best box to have at The Meadows.
“But at the same time the quality of dogs we’ve got at the moment is superb so it’s a very hard race to win.”