The Group 1 Emirates Stakes on November 7 is Con Karakatsanis’ chance to make a mark on the track.
The 24-year-old horse trainer is banking on the astute horsemanship of jockey Darren Gauci to guide his most prized horse, Black Piranha to a win.
“He’s a very good horse to have run in this year’s Cox Plate he’s got to be one of the top 12 to 14 horses in the country and you don’t get in that field unless you’re proven,” says Karakatsanis.
“Emirates is a winnable race because a big track suits him so I’m pretty confident he can have a good race.”
A former jockey who struggled with his weight, Karakatsanis has made an immediate impact in his short training career. Despite an unlucky sixth in this year’s Cox Plate, Black Piranha has been one of the biggest moving horses in the country.
After a string of Group 1 placements including in the George Ryder Stakes and Doncaster Handicap, Black Piranha took out the Stradbroke Handicap in June- the first Group 1 win for Karakatsanis.
Yet horse racing is not just about winning for Karakatsanis.
“It’s all about the thrill and pleasure… and to have a horse who can take me where no other horse can – this is why I do what I do,” he says.
Although he trains 16 horses, it is Black Piranha in particular who he has grown attached to since he bought him as a baby at the 2005 Magic Millions yearling sales at the Gold Coast.
“He’s more like a best friend than a horse – like you can really talk to him and communicate to him – he’s just different.”
Racing was a career path that Karakatsanis was essentially born into. His father, Tony, had moved to Australia as a child from the idyllic Dodecanese island of Kos. The equine family affair began with trotters, which led onto training.
Whilst his father trained, Karakatsanis would jump on the ponies and by 15, he became a jockey for six years.
Although he enjoyed his time on the saddle, his father’s retirement from training and weight increase prompted him into the business at a young age.
“It is always something that I wanted to do and when horses get in your blood it’s hard to back away,” he says.
Karakatsanis says his future goal is to become one of Australia’s top trainers.
“After that I would also like to travel overseas such as Hong Kong or Singapore where training is different and learn the way they train- that would be an absolute thrill for me.”