The night Betty won the hearts of everyone

11:45 AM 20 Jan 2014 NZDT
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Bettor Cover Lover                          Brent and Diane Mangos Bettor Cover Lover
Bettor Cover Lover wins the Group 1 - $100G Queen Of Hearts Pace
Brent and Diane Mangos - After Bettor Cover Lover returns to the winners circle
Bettor Cover Lover - Returning to the winner's circle

Brent Mangos looks back on his time with Betty, and reminisces about all her big wins, he'll always come back to that second Queen Of Hearts.

It's only one of six Group One photographs of Betty that are proudly displayed in his home but it encapsulates all that was good about the million dollar mare.

It wasn't her richest win, or her most dominant, but behind the victory salute and the heart-felt scenes in the winning circle were eight and a half months of raw emotion.

From the moment of that dreaded phone call when he found out Betty, who 12 hours earlier won the Victoria Oaks, had lost half her foot in a loading accident on the Melbourne tarmac, his life was forever changed.

"I'll never forget the look on Brent's face when he found out Betty had been hurt, " wife Dianne Mangos recalls. "It was haunting and I knew before he said a word that something had happened."

For the best part of a month it was borderline whether Betty would even survive the subsequent operation. Early on there was a lot of soul searching, staring at hotel room walls while he, Dianne and owner Trevor Lindsay waited to see if her joint became infected, which would have signed her death warrant.

"For a while there we were just trying to save her as a broodmare," Mangos said. "We never thought we could get her back to the racetrack. No one ever expected her foot to mend like it did."

Mangos believes it was the way Betty coped with the ordeal, and the months of being cooped up in her box, when they all spent so much time trying to keep her happy, that signalled how special she was.

"Heyden (Cullen) in particular put a lot of work into her, hand walking and swimming her. Then there were months on the walking machine and jogging, and all the time we had to bog her foot up so she could keep her shoes on.

"You get attached to good ones when nothing goes wrong but when you go through what we did with her you can't help it."

It all came bubbling out that night at Auckland in December, 2011 when Betty finally made it back to the track and, just like in her last start in New Zealand, she downed Carabella, the only two times the champion was beaten.

The scenes in the winner's circle were priceless as Mangos wept openly and struggled to speak as he was mobbed by a succession of wellwishers.

And for a few fabulous months afterwards the industry basked in the renewed rivalry between the two great mares - until Carabella herself broke down.

Mangos says he's never had a horse who could carry high speed so far and he put it down to a big heart.

 

"I'd like to know what her heart score was. She had the greatest heart rate I've ever taken. Hers would have been 10 points lower than anything else I've worked.

"Normally after a race their heart rate is 95 or 100 - hers was in the 70s. And her recovery rate was unbelieveable. It would drop 10 points in four or five minutes. She had a resting rate in the low 40s."

But, incredibly, Betty kept her great attribute hidden for a while.

"She was very ordinary in her first preparation and used to kick and heaven knows what else.

"And for her second preparation I actually gave her back to Logan Hollis and Shane Roberston who had broken her in because she was such a handful.

"It wasn't 'til I trialled her that she showed anything but I had two or three others at the time that I thought were better.

"That's why when I put them in a Sires' Stakes heat I sent her south to Addington for her debut and didn't even go. Dianne went with her and Davey Butt drove her."

Mangos said he was as surprised as anyone when Betty lost 100 metres in an early gallop and won.

"She never looked back after that and was quite dominant at two (winning five of six starts)."

But Mangos says one of the races he'll remember the most was the following season when she beat Bettor Move It in the Sires Stakes Fillies' Final at Auckland.

"Her time that night (2:01.5 for 1700m) was a mile rate of 1:55, which was only one tenth of a second outside Elsu's record."

Cracking the $1 million barrier, winning the Five-Year-Old Diamond at Ashburton last June was also a career highlight.

"Not many trainers get a horse who wins a million dollars. But she came along just a year or so after Molly Darling (24 wins, $575,150).

"To get two mares like that when we train only 15 to 20 horses you've got to be pretty lucky.

"It's sad what's happened but that's part and parcel of racing.

"I was looking forward to having another crack at Sydney - she had no luck there last year. But it's lovely to have had her this long.

"I don't know what Dianne is going to do now though. Every time Betty won she'd buy a new pair of shoes.

"No, seriously, Dianne's pretty upset, She loved Betty and never missed one of her races. I'll just have to find another one."

With any luck Mangos might have to look no further than over the back fence. There, just broken in, happily munching grass, is a yearling sister to Betty whom they bought for $50,000 last year.

Courtesy of Barry Lichter and The Sunday Star Times

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