Betty beats back to her very best
The flourish of the whip said it all.
For Brent Mangos, it marked the moment he knew for sure that his beloved Betty was back to her very best.
And the roar from the crowd confirmed it, Alexandra Park had a new favourite lady.
Not since the days of black beauty Delightful Lady have the fans taken a horse into their hearts like it - and Betty didn't let them down, taking her second successive $100,000 Queen Of Hearts on Friday at Alexandra Park with a home turn sprint that left her rivals breathless.
Twelve months earlier, amid emotional scenes seldom seen on the track, they welcomed Betty back from a near fatal injury while boarding a flght home from Australia.
Mangos had fewer tears this time but the moment still tugged at his heart strings as he was swamped by Perth owners Trevor and Colleen Lindsay, his wife Dianne, and all the stable staff who had helped with the incredible comeback.
"She's come right," Mangos said succinctly when told the sizzling final sectionals of 55.6s and 26.5 that saw Betty uncatchable in front.
"To her standards she'd only been racing OK recently,'' Mangos said, referring to the late hiccup the previous week when Betty nearly lost her lead-up race, suddenly pulling up near the line.
"Sometimes she'd been a bit lackadaisical but tonight even when Hayden (Cullen) was leading her she was jumping around, and she left the gate easily.''
Mangos said he believed the mare was feeling better thanks to a week of tubbing her feet, which he discovered were a little sore.
"I also freshened her up a bit. But it may just be that now that she's older she's taken a couple of runs to get really sharp.
"I let her rip before the home turn just in case she tried to pull up again but she never looked like it tonight. She can really run some sectionals and now that she's just a bit stronger she can maintain that high speed for longer.'
Mangos said the win was satisfying not just for him, but for Cullen, who had put a lot of time into Betty, and the entire team at home.
It credited Bettor Cover Lover with a record which Mangos believes might be unprecedented in New Zealand harness racing - a mare winning a Group I race in each of her seasons of racing.
At two she claimed the $156,000 Sires Stakes Fillies Championship and $200,000 Harness Jewels Diamond, at three she bagged the $100,000 Victoria Oaks, and at four and five the $100,000 Queen of Hearts.
That would have been an impossible ask for 1970s pin-up Delightful Lady, who made a comeback after being unable to have foals, and raced until she was 11. But not even former crack filly Hilarious Guest achieved the feat in the 1980s.
And Betty's dominance should see her win a few more yet with her next two targets at Addington, the $40,000 Premier Mares Championship (1950m) on January 18 and $100,000 NZ Breeders' Stakes (2600m) on February 1.
Her win last night secured an invitation to her main aim, the A$200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle on March 3.