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3 evenings per week, John and Sandy Betts climb right into a 1995 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham and move to paintings. They observe the similar regimen each and every evening: Sandy takes the wheel, together with her husband sitting at the back of her, telling her when to hit the fuel.

Regardless of the way it sounds, John Betts is not any back-seat driving force. The automobile that begins the harness races at Operating Aces doesn’t also have a again seat; it’s been changed via a tiny table and the swivel chair the place John sits, dealing with the rear window. And there’s by no means any arguing about instructions, for the reason that path is all the time the similar: two counterclockwise laps across the observe, with a herd of Standardbred racehorses in scorching pursuit.

A variety of marriages wouldn’t live to tell the tale 3 a long time of riding in circles. For John and Sandy Betts, who have got greater than 5,000 races off to a excellent delivery at Operating Aces, each and every 1-mile trade go back and forth is a pleasure journey.

“We’ve been doing this for roughly 30 years, by way of maximum of our married existence,” John Betts stated. “It’s now not a very simple process. Numerous issues can move flawed while you’ve were given 9 or 10 horses and 9 or 10 drivers.

“However we each love horse racing, and we recognize those animals. We actually revel in it.”

VideoVideo (00:50): The view of a part of a harness race at Operating Aces, as noticed from the aspect window of the starter automotive.

Sandy, who has been married to John for just about 32 years, seconded that. “Each race is exciting,” she stated. “Most of these years, and it by no means will get outdated.”

The Bettses had been beginning races at Operating Aces for the reason that observe opened in 2008, simply north of the I-35W/35E cut up, in Columbus. John, a third-generation horseman, labored in his kin’s harness racing strong sooner than switching to another roughly horsepower. Sandy, a former instructor, has been within the driving force’s seat for most of the 10,000-plus races began at her husband’s route.

They take nice satisfaction within the chic, cream-colored Fleetwoods that get the races rolling at Operating Aces. The fundamental setup isn’t a lot other from the cellular beginning gates offered to harness racing within the mid-1940s.

The gate is composed of 2 metal wings fastened at the again of the automobile, which span about 65 toes from finish to finish and feature submit positions marked for 9 horses. When now not in use, the wings fold in and hug the perimeters of the car. The automobiles’ roofs had been got rid of and fitted with clear bubbles to offer extra headroom for the starter seated within the rear.

The Fleetwoods have high-powered Corvette engines and beefed-up suspensions to enhance the 1-ton gate. Whilst many tracks now mount their gates on pickup vans, the Bettses stated the Cadillacs upload some additional glamour to the races.

“After we force previous the gang, you pay attention a remark each and every evening, like ‘Sharp automotive!’ or ‘Wow!’ ” stated John, whose mechanical experience assists in keeping the automobiles in peak form. “Sandy polishes those automobiles so that they shine like a brand new penny, so that they all the time glance their best possible on race days. And we by no means fail to remember we’re right here to position on a display.”

That display starts when Sandy pulls the automobile onto the observe, close to the winner’s circle. John, sitting on the table and dealing with the rear of the automobile, provides the command by way of a speaker — “Accumulate up, please! All in combination!” — whilst Sandy hits the button to unfold out the wings. As the automobile slowly speeds up, the horses start coming near the gate at a reasonable tempo.

John controls the preliminary pace with a throttle on the table. The hoofbeats develop louder and louder because the horses transfer nearer, touring about 15 to 17 miles in line with hour. When all are coated up at their designated submit positions — hooves pounding and manes flying, simply toes clear of John’s secure gaze — he says, “Cross!” and Sandy speeds off and retracts the wings.

VideoVideo (01:09): The beginning of a harness race at Operating Aces, as noticed from the Cadillac that serves because the cellular beginning gate.

Whilst the horses shift towards the rail to start out racing, Sandy assists in keeping the automobile at the out of doors fringe of the observe and drives along the sphere so John can wait for any infractions right through the race. The speedometer climbs as excessive as 38 miles in line with hour, accompanied via a multilayered soundtrack: horses snorting, drivers whistling, wheels squeaking, whips snapping.

“Maximum horses maintain the gate advantageous, after they work out it’s now not going to devour them,” John stated. “Some will arise and put their nostril correct on it. Others are more difficult to keep an eye on. Your process is to verify everybody has a good delivery, and no horse has a nasty enjoy.”

The Bettses’ teamwork and precision guarantees maximum begins at Operating Aces are clean. John can spot possible issues — a driving force suffering together with his horse, or a slick spot at the observe — sooner than they occur. Sandy, simply an arm’s period away, is aware of the precise trail to take to stay the automobile secure and easy methods to make the most of its substantial energy and length.

John Betts additionally serves as Operating Aces’ observe superintendent and director of amenities, so the couple lives in Minnesota year-round. When the races lead to September, the Fleetwood is going into the storage.

They spend the wintry weather in their very own automobiles, a Jeep Cherokee and a Dodge Ram pickup. And after they’re sharing a car off the observe?

“Then, it’s other,” John stated. “I’m the one who drives as a rule.’’

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