YEAR: 2012



Round six in the epic Bettor Cover Lover - Carabella title fight went to the latter at Addington last Friday night and the score is now 4-2, but the points are still about even and the big rounds are still to come.

Carabella was at her brilliant best in the $40,000 Premier Mares Championship, but Bettor Cover Lover lost no admirers in closing to within a head in what was essentially a match race. She probably gained some in getting so close after Carabella had things all her own way. Among those admirers are the connections of Carabella, who were far from confident going in. Still bemused by how Bettor Cover Lover could pick them up at Auckland last month, and suitably impressed by a stunning trial by their arch rival on the Monday, the connections figured Carabella to be vulnerable.

"We didn't have much choice about leading tonight and we knew Bettor Cover Lover would be coming," said trainer Benny Hill. "Carabella has had this habit of knocking off when clear in the run home, and we talked about that before the race. Ricky (May) managed to get her home this time, but it was a little too close for comfort and it's quite a battle isn't it," he added. Easing up when the work seems to be done almost cost Carabella at the Jewels last year and it may well have been a factor in Auckland, such was Bettor Cover Lover's late rush, but May made sure he kept Carabella's mind on the job at Addington.

After getting a relatively easy time of it, May had Carabella stoked up down the back and with Storm Light struggling to stay in touch coming to the turn, Carabella managed to put a winning break on Bettor Cover Lover early in the run home. Carabella paced home in 56.1 with even quarters in 28.2 and 27.9. Bettor Cover Lover was spotting her a decent lead a lap out and while she got handier at the half, having to get around the game Storm Light made the difference in the end.

Hill, May and Robert Famularo know that each encounter is going to be a battle of tactics and wits, and they respect Bettor Cover Lover as much as anyone. But they have another card to play when needed. "What we do in the future will be dictated by the barrier draws, but I can't wait for the day when we have to drive Carabella from behind. When that happens, we've seen what she can do in the Oaks. She's a better horse when chasing, than being chased."

Carabella is being very carefully managed as a 4-year-old and is in for a very light season. She may even be kept for just racing against mares through next season as well. Her connections are just worried about next week's race for the moment, but a trip to Sydney for the $200,000 Ladyship Mile at Menangle on March 3 is definitely on the programme. Carabella will then come home and be set for the Jewels at Cambridge, although Famularo is not overjoyed about that prospect. "Everybody is on a hiding to nothing there," said Famularo. "You can head there and draw barrier one and it is race over. Or you can draw six and your race is over," he added.

There's a couple of good races for Carabella at Melton in May, although the $100,000 Queen Of The Pacific is only a week out from the Jewels, and Hill might prefer a lead up race to Cambridge in Auckland when the time comes. Whatever is decided, Carabella will have no more than 7-8 races this season, and Famularo for one will be quite happy to follow the same sort of programme next year as well. "If you pick you spots, you can still win some serious money, without taking on the big boys," he said. "$200,000 Australian is serious money for instance. Most of the present top open class horses are getting a bit long in the tooth now and won't be around in a year or two, although there seems to be plenty of depth coming through. We'll just have to assess things at the time, but we won't be rushing into the (NZ) Cup or the Grand Circuit just because she turns five. There is plenty of time for that carry on."

In the meantime, the fans have another mouth watering clash with Bettor Cover Lover in the NZ Breeder's Stakes to look forward to next week, followed by the Ladyship, where De Lovely could also be a factor. With so much doom and gloom surrounding the industry at present, at least the horses are providing something to look forward to.

Credit: Frank Marrion writing in HRWeekly 25 Jan 2012

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