Mike Manganello – Giving Thanks

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 24, 2015 in Blogroll, General Discussion, Horse Racing, Kentucky Derby, WinningPonies.com | 4 Comments >>


This week we find ourselves sitting down, breaking bread, and giving thanks for life’s blessings. – I spent some time chatting with one of the good guys of racing, Mike Manganello. If your memory has you searching, think back to the first Saturday in May 1970. – Ah-ha, it comes back in full color. – Hunter S. Thompson attended the Derby that year, and penned his famous article; “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved.” – The times were a changing. Along comes a three-year-old by the name of Dust Commander who came from the sixties, and ran into the pages of racing’s history.


I met Mike working at the track. Small in stature, but big in heart. The kinda’ guy who didn’t get his lunch money taken on the way to school. – Born Michael “Mike” Manganello 1941, from Hartford, Connecticut. He got his start working for trainer Odie Clelland as a stable hand, and then began riding professionally in 1959 and earned his first win on March 3, 1960 at Fair Grounds. – In our conversation, he had ridden at over 50 tracks in his professional travels, and most have faded into the pages of time.


Being a jockey can be a tough occupation, and in my opinion they are pound-for-pound the best athletes in sports. Mike had his share of bumps and bruises, and during our chat he spoke of them as if they were no big deal. – Two broken vertebrae, broken arms, wrist, and a collar bone. Just another day in the office for the brave athletes. – The name “Dust Commander” is derived from his dam, Dust Storm, and his sire, Bold Commander. A descendant of Nearco, Dust Commander was bred by the Pullen brothers. He was owned by Robert E. Lehmann and trained by Don Combs. – He told me ” I loved him coming into the Derby. We all did. When he paid over $70 winning the Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland, I knew he was something good. – They even made a bet on him for me !”

On May 2nd, 1970, a young man from Hartford, Connecticut rode into racing’s royalty. With the gold and red Lehmann silks. Dust Commander won the 96th running of the Kentucky Derby in 2:03.4 ahead of My Dad George and High Echelon. – Take a trip down memory lane and watch closely as a rider with ice-water in his veins only left the rail once nearing the 1/4 pole to steer around a runner and drop right back over. As Mike said; ” it was the shortest way home.”


In 1991, Mike Manganello hung up his tack for the final time, and became a racing steward. – He enjoys his life, and stays active in multiple charities connected to racing. Through his work he has the opportunity to mentor young riders, and be a guiding voice for the betterment of the sport. – As we finished our chat, he said he was grateful for health, good luck in racing, and his better half Kitty Manganello. – I enjoyed my call with Mike, and I’ll see him again when he holds court as a steward at Belterra Park. As I hung up the phone, I realized he is truly one of the good guys in racing. There are too many to mention, and for me I give thanks for the opportunity to meet so many interesting individuals in the sport I hold dear. – Happy Thanksgiving, Mike and Kitty from your friends at Winning Ponies !