Continuing with Don Jacklin, president of the American Mule Racing Association. He is, by the way, the Jacklin of Jacklin Seed, "one of the world's largest national and international grass-seed research, production, and marketing organizations." Jacklin is a big-game hunter and Idaho kingpin who, after coming across amateur mule racing in Bishop, California, back in the '70s, saw the light, the light that makes a man get in line and follow.

In 1980, Jacklin authored a bill to allow pari-mutuel wagering on mule races in Idaho. Montana fell before the power of the mule in 1981, then Oregon, then Nevada, then the money mother lode of California. This gladsome development caused mule-race purses to climb up from the $500 badlands of Idaho/Montana to the nutritious and healthful $5000 pastures of the Golden State.

California legalized pari-mutuel betting on mule races, but only on the California fair circuit. There is one loophole: the state legislature or the California Horse Racing Board may, by special permission, allow mules to race in hoity-toity race tracks such as Del Mar. Four years ago, Jacklin's champion mule, Taz, raced against the Muhammad Ali /Lance Armstrong/Babe Ruth racing mule of all time, Black Ruby, in a $10,000 match race at Del Mar. Black Ruby won.

Pari-mutuel wagering on mule races is only one part of the mule-cloning story. Turns out, cloning mules may lead to a noticeable step forward in understanding how some forms of cancer develop.

Do you remember the first cloned mammal, the sheep-swamp-thing named Dolly? Dolly was manufactured in 1996. By then, Jacklin had been funding research into animal reproduction for almost ten years. After Dolly, cattle, pigs, mice, rabbits, goats, and cats have been cloned, but no one had successfully cloned a horse.

The question becomes, "So, what?"

Well, horses have significantly lower cancer rates than humans. In fact, male horses do not get prostrate cancer. Attempts to clone horses failed, but those attempts generated clues as to why horses have such low cancer rates. Somebody thought, "The next best thing to cloning a horse is cloning a mule."

You'll want to know where mule babies come from, and I will not withhold that information. A mule is the sterile lovechild of a female horse and a male donkey. Mule cloning began primarily to aid cancer research.

Thanks to $400,000 from Jacklin, the University of Idaho and Utah State University opened a joint venture, "Project Idaho," to clone the world's first equine.

To be brutally brief, they pulled it off. Idaho Gem was born on May 4, 2003, followed by Utah Pioneer and Idaho Star. Cloned triplets.

So, there you are, and while you're up, kindly fetch me a beer from the fridge.

Put the gun down. All right, there is more to the story. Another Project Idaho participant is Gordon Woods, University of Idaho professor of animal and veterinary science. Woods founded and is president of CancEr2, a cancer-research biz. He is a principal in EquinE2, in business to commercialize horse reproduction (thoroughbred horse-racing establishment beware), and also a principal of ClonE2, a company formed to offer horse cloning to the public (thoroughbred horse-racing establishment be very afraid). Don Jacklin is a principal in ClonE2 and...

The foregoing mean nothing. It's Idaho. You could not be involved in such esoteric science for ten years without knowing every other human being in Idaho who was working in or near the same field. These people had to get together.

Anyway, the clones are born. Three years pass. Project Idaho leased Idaho Gem to Don Jacklin. Jacklin, AMAR president, begins to race the clone, starting at the Winnemucca Mule Races. Project Idaho leased Idaho Star to Roger Downey, an AMAR boardmember, at the same time. Project Idaho wants publicity, hopes that their dancing mule clones will cause strangers to come forward and rain money on their project. Follows are the clones' records to date.

June 3rd. Both mules won their qualifying race at Winnemucca and in the final, Humboldt County Mule Futurity, Idaho Star finished seventh and Idaho Gem finished third.

June 21st at the San Joaquin County Fair. Idaho Gem won and turned in the fastest time of any three-year-old this season. Idaho Star scratched after his rider was kicked by an equine who will not be named.

July 5th at the Alameda County Fair. Idaho Gem finished fourth, as did Idaho Star in another race.

July 20th at the Solano County Fair. Idaho Gem finished second, .0017 of one second slower than the winner, Out of My League. Idaho Star did not compete.

July 26th at the Sonoma County Fair. Idaho Gem finished second. Idaho Star did not compete.

The closest Idaho Gem and Idaho Star will get to San Diego will be at the Los Angeles Country Fair in Pomona. The fair runs from September 8th to the 25th. Check www.lacountyfair.com for particulars.

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