Cloned Mule Idaho Gem Wins in California Racing Debut

The racing mule Idaho Gem, the world's first equine clone, made a favorable impression in his initial start on the California fair circuit, striding away to a 2 1/2-length win in a 350-yard allowance event at Stockton Wednesday.

The same could not be said for Idaho Star, the winner's long-eared genetic twin. Idaho Star shied from the rope pony as he was being guided toward the starting gate, lost rider Bernie Santos, and took off. He had to be scratched, holding up the start of the race for more than five minutes.

The 3-year-old Idaho Gem, who runs in the colors of Donald Jacklin for trainer Ruby Thomas, picked up his second win in three starts. With Carlos Villalobos riding him for the first time, Idaho Gem broke second best but soon took control, veered in a little after clearing off by two lengths, and maintained his advantage under the wire to score at odds of 6-5 against five conventional mules. The 9-10 favorite, Bar JF Rock On, ran second, 4 3/4 lengths ahead of Classy Recruit, who was the early leader. The time, :20.92, was faster than the 4-year-old mule Ghenghis Khan ran in winning the preceding race and was the quickest clocking turned in by a 3-year-old this season. Ghengis Khan was the champion 3-year-old mule of 2005.

"I'm just really thrilled," Jacklin said. "Ruby was ecstatic. The jockey didn't have to raise his stick, and he ran a straight line."

The opposition in the $5,000 San Joaquin County Fair event was a combined 3-for-48 in previous starts.

The mule clones are products of Project Idaho, a joint effort of the universities of Idaho and Utah State. They are closely related to the retired mule world champion Taz, who participated in a series of great races against Black Ruby in California for a couple of summers.

Jacklin, president of the American Mule Racing Association, campaigned Taz and helped fund the $750,000 Project Idaho, which leased Idaho Gem to him. Idaho Star, also a 3-year-old, was leased to Roger Downey. Researchers hope the clones attract enough interest to help spur further funding for their program, which has a goal of finding a cure for cancer.

Both clones won their debut races in Winnemucca, Nev., in heats June 3. In the Humboldt Futurity the following day, Idaho Gem finished third, beaten by 2 1/2 lengths by Bar JF Hot Ticket, while Idaho Star ran seventh.

"He ran green at Winnemucca," Jacklin said of Idaho Gem. "He bumped early, weaved over about three paths, and couldn't get straightened out. The maturity he showed this time was impressive."

More importantly, he said, both 'Gem' and 'Star' are perfectly healthy and have shown no deformities as they progress in their racing careers.

Jacklin said he expects both to run back in a 3-year-old race that would include Bar JF Hot Ticket, who came back to win another stakes, during the upcoming Alameda County Fair meet at Pleasanton. After that, they would likely be thrown in against the heavyweights on the circuit such as Sarah Nelson and Smoking Joe.

About the Author

Jack Shinar

Jack Shinar is a frequent contributor to The Blood-Horse magazine and is part of their Digital Media department.

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