A greyhound racing dream came true for Luckie Karabitsakos when his brilliant sprinter Hard Style Rico unforgettably smashed the Sandown Park 515m track record in the Group 1 TAB Melbourne Cup Final on Friday night.
It was a fifth appearance in a Group 1 event for Hard Style Rico, which Pearcedale-based Karabitsakos also bred and owns, with his best previous finish coming when runner-up to Simon Told Helen in the Maturity Classic.
While Karabitsakos had to bide his time in the quest for Group 1 glory, it was undoubtedly worth the wait.
Hard Style Rico overcame box five against an all-star field in a sensational all-the-way victory, clocking 28.909s, eclipsing Hooked On Scotch’s previous course record of 28.939s, established in the 2019 Melbourne Cup heats.
“What an experience. I’m speechless,” said an ecstatic Karabitsakos.
“This is the greatest race to be in and to have the dog win it and to win it in track record time speaks for itself.”
WATCH: Hard Style Rico (5) speared the lids in the Melbourne Cup and there was no stopping him from there as he clocked a 4.99sec first split before eclipsing the 515m track record running a breathtaking 28.91sec.
Hard Style Rico won his Cup heat in a blistering 29.17s, being shaded for qualifying honours by Tiggerlong Tonk’s 29.16s performance.
Despite his awkward draw, Hard Style Rico was well-supported, starting on the third line of betting at $5.70, behind $2.40 favourite Simon Told Helen and Western Australian pin-up Tommy Shelby at $5.20.
Karabitsakos was celebrating a long way from home after Hard Style Rico flew out to assume control, running 4.99s early.
He was never going to be beaten from that point, defeating a gallant Simon Told Helen by 5.5 lengths, with Tommy Shelby running third.
“What a great feeling,” said Karabitsakos.
“Emotions did run wild. I felt like I was fighting Mike Tyson and I was winning!
“As soon as he found the front – no disrespect to the other dogs in the field, they’re all great dogs – but as soon as he found the front I know how good he is and they weren’t catching him.”
Hard Style Rico, a homebred son of Bella Infrared, has now won 21 of his 40 starts, having also claimed the Group 2 Shepparton Cup, while the massive $435,000 winner’s purse saw his earnings skyrocket to $632,530.
It was the second time this month that Hard Style Rico has upstaged Simon Told Helen, having also claimed the Australian Greyhound of the Year’s scalp in the Group 3 Silver Bullet at The Meadows, making a point after being left out of the Group 1 Topgun field.
The Karabitsakos family are becoming well-attuned to Group 1 success at Sandown, with Luckie’s brother Anthony guiding Black Mumbo to victory in the 2017 Harrison-Dawson.
It’s very much a family affair, with Hard Style Rico’s mother, Bella Rico, being a litter sister to Black Mumbo.
TAB Melbourne Cup night was the conclusion of the inaugural Metro Festival of Racing, incorporating five nights of racing at The Meadows and Sandown Park during November with almost $2 million in prize money being distributed.
Photos by Clint Anderson