Hard Style Rico is ready to rumble in the Shootout at Sandown Park on Thursday night

Trainer Luckie Karabitsakos has declared his star sprinter Hard Style Rico capable of bettering the magical 29-second barrier in Thursday night’s Group 3 Shootout (515m) at Sandown Park.

And given his opposition in the four-dog showdown boasts sprinting heavyweights Shima Shine, Tiggerlong Tonk and Christo Bale, there’s every chance it may take a sub-29 second performance to claim the $25,000-winner-take-all prize.

“I’ve got no doubt with everything in place he could break the 29 seconds and who knows maybe even give the (28.94) track record a nudge as well,” Karabitsakos said.

“I gave him a post-to-post after the last race at Sandown last Sunday and he went 22.78 … they don’t go any quicker than that. He’s come back from a little break better than ever. I’m really looking forward to the Shootout. It should be a great contest.”

Hard Style Rico powers into the Shootout fresh off a mesmerising 29.46 victory in the Group 3 Silver Bullet (525m) at The Meadows on Melbourne Cup eve.

For 39-year-old Karabitsakos, the barnstorming win carried added weight after being left disappointed that his prolific winning sprinter failed to earn an invitation into the Group 1 Topgun, won on Saturday night by Shima Shine.

Hard Style Rico and trainer Luckie Karabitsakos.Source:Supplied

“I must admit I was disappointed; I thought he’d earned his place in the race,” Karabitsakos said. “He’s been in all the big races and won a Shepparton Cup and broken track records.

“To win the Silver Bullet the way he did sent a bit of a message to the selection panel. But that’s all behind us now, I’m just looking forward to the next six months with the dog.

“It’s his time to shine I reckon.”

First staged in 1998, Thursday night’s Shootout has all the ingredients to be an epic.

Six of the last 10 winners have posted 29.20 or faster with the race record held by 2013 winner Xylia Allen in a flying 29.07. It’s a race that takes a remarkable performance to claim victory and this race is expected to be no different.

TAB has installed Saturday night’s Topgun hero Shima Shine as a $2.40 favourite from his box seven draw just ahead of Hard Style Rico at $2.80 from box three.

Powerhouse chaser Christo Bale is quoted $3.60 from box one while Tiggerlong Tonk – an eight time Sandown winner – is $9.50 from box five.

“It’s hard not to see whichever dog leads not winning,” Karabitsakos said.

“I think it’s a very even race so getting the start right is going to be the difference between winning and losing. When you have dogs in front running flying times it just makes it mathematically impossible to run them down.

“I would have preferred my dog drawn out wider but to win he’s going to need to lead so he’ll get his chance from three. He’s going as good as ever. I can’t fault him.”

Winner at 19 of his 37 career starts, Karabitsakos will use the Shootout as the ideal lead up to next week’s heats of the Group 1 Melbourne Cup.

“If we get some luck with box draws he’s right in the picture for the cup the way he’s going,” Karabitsakos said. “I’ve seen some changes in him recently to tell me the next six months are going to be the making of him.

“His trials are exceptional but then in races he takes it to another level again. He’s just a competitor and that’s why I’m looking forward to Thursday night.

“He’s in great order and ready to run a big race. I’m as confident as you can be going into a race with such great dogs.”

Originally published asHard Style Rico ready for epic Shootout

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