Day At The Track

Emotions run high for 'Betty' - Brent Mangos

10:04 AM 18 Dec 2011 NZDT
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Brent and Diane Mangos
Brent and Diane Mangos - After Bettor Cover Lover returns to the winners circle
Duane Ranger Photo

The look on Brent Mangos' face is priceless. Here in the victory circle at Alexandra Park, one of harness racing's tough men is so choked up with emotion he can hardly speak. Whoever named this race the Queen Of Hearts must have had some divine inspiration because amid rapturous cheering, akin to an Interdominion Final, Mangos and his magnificent mare Bettor Cover Lover have just captured the hearts of everyone on track.

And sitting in the sulky, eyes welling up with tears and mouth forming words that never come out, Mangos is barely registering the stream of excited wellwishers who can hardly believe what they've just seen.

That is until Perth owner Trevor Lindsay cavorts into the ring like a gymnast and Mangos' wife Dianne appears, hugging hubby like there's no tomorrow.

Eight months ago there was no tomorrow for the mare they fondly call Betty after she was injured terribly when being loaded on to a flight home from Melbourne.

No one ever expected to see her barnstorming finish again, like the one she's just produced to reel in Horse of the Year Carabella after giving her a four-length head start turning for home.

Industry stalwart Charlie Roberts, who stands the sire of the first two home, Bettor's Delight, at Woodlands Stud, describes it as "one of the races of the century"; on course compere Mick Guerin as "one of the most remarkable wins ever at Alexandra Park".

"It's not often you see Mangos close to tears," chimes in club racing manager Kevin Smith, abuzz like everyone else in the aftermath.

Successful owner Glenys Kennard, declares: "This is why we race horses", soaking up the rare excitement in the air.

But Auckland Trotting Club vice-president Kerry Hoggard sums it up when, later in the hospitality room, he tells Mangos he can't believe it's possible that he's produced the mare first-up since the accident to win a Group I race.

Mangos deflects the praise on to the mare herself, describing her as simply "a good horse", and on to his team at home, especially training partner Hayden Cullen "who loves her to death" and walked her for countless hours in her early rehabilitation.

Lindsay is in no doubt, however, who can take most of the credit.

"She's come back from almost dust straight to the top and I'm just so thankful.

"I have enormous respect for Brent and how he prepared her. I kept saying are you sure you don't want to go for a softie first and run in a little race at Cambridge?

"But he insisted on going to the trials and workouts, where he could do what he wanted to, and no more."

Lindsay, revelling with wife Colleen in their greatest moment in 15 years of racing, says he'll never forget the first words surgeon Cate Steel said to him when he arrived at the Werribee vet clinic outside Melbourne where Betty was taken after the accident, just 12 hours after winning the Victoria Oaks.

"She looked at the wound and said she was finished. When her foot got stuck in the pallet door it cut through the lateral ligament of the coffin joint."

But Lindsay, one the leading vets in Western Australia, said while the wound was contaminated, it wasn't infected and "deep down in my heart" he held out a slim hope she might recover, though he didn't tell Mangos at the time.

"You don't own and breed horses unless you're an optimist and I'm a massive optimist."

Lindsay said he found it very difficult assisting Steel in the operation that followed even tougher than for Mangos and his wife who sat crying, waiting, in a nearby supermarket mall.

"Every step seemed to take forever, it went on for more than three hours.

"Any bits of tissue that aren't going to heal turn to pus and that's like a vegemite sandwich for bugs. You have to cut it all out."

Three days later he thought it was all over when Betty couldn't put her leg on the ground the only two possibilities were that a fatal infection had set in or the cast on her leg was too tight.

"Luckily it was only the cast."

While it took months before Mangos could work on Betty no one knew if the injury would heal well enough for her to be any more than a broodmare he never once thought she'd changed, her behaviour the same as ever.

And when he started speeding her up in work, it wasn't long before the trainer started to think she could once again be competitive on the racetrack.

"But I had to play it down a bit. If you get too cocky then everyone ends up disappointed."

Now that Betty has made it back, Mangos won't be over-stretching her, tackling mainly mares' races.

Next up will be the $40,000 Futurity Stakes (2700m) at Cambridge for four and five-year-olds, where she will start from 30m.

Then she will fly to Addington where two mares' races on January 20 and February 4 are on the cards.

From Christchurch she will fly to Sydney for a $40,000 mares' mile at Menangle on February 17, hopefully then earning an invitation to the $200,000 Ladyship Mile on March 3.

The programme almost mirrors that of Carabella, setting up what should be a series of mouth-watering clashes through summer, rematches eagerly awaited by owner Robert Famularo.

"Even though we sat parked for the last lap we were beaten fair and square tonight I don't think we could have gone any quicker in the straight," he said.

"It's going to come down to who gets the best run. And, shivers, it will be interesting to see if De Lovely can get in our way."

Courtesy of The Sunday Star Times and Barry Lichter


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