Mule Racing at the Fair

On Saturday, my husband and a friend and I headed over to the fair. The Alameda County Fair is really so much more than a fair. The best part to me is the live horse racing. Most of the horses, trainers, and jockeys from Golden Gate Fields in Oakland head over to the fair for the weeks that it’s there. This year, in addition to the thoroughbred, there’s also Arabian and Mule racing.

Lil Sarah

Lil Sarah

That’s right. Mules. Racing. And it’s just as amazing as it sounds. We were actually planning to go later in the afternoon and then I looked at the race program and saw that the first race was mules. So we got up early to ride before heading to the fair in time for the first race.

And the best part of the mule racing? Carly, I hope you’re reading this because one of the racing mules was named Bobi McGee.

race 1

Given how much Carly complains that Bobby looks like a mule, I had to get a picture of the real mule Bobi McGee. The spelling isn’t the same, but she even kinda looks like Bobby:


I bet on #6 Lil Sarah and she ended up coming in 2nd. Luckily I’d bet on her to show, so I still won. A whole 40 cents. My friend actually picked the winner and won a whole $5.20 on her $2 bet.



Bobi McGee ended up coming in 3rd. I really wish all the races that day were mules races. We did watch a few more regular TB races before heading out to explore the rest of the fair, but the mules were the best. Local readers, the mules  – and the race horses – are there through the end of the fair. You should go to the fair and check it out.


After racing, we got to see the Budweiser Clydesdales being harnessed and hitched. It was really cool to see. They’re such huge horses, but so well behaved. They’re so big, that each harness apparently weight 130 lbs. And all the reins apparently weight 75 lbs when being held by the driver. I cannot even imagine driving them.

budweiser clydesdales

As with last year the petting zoo is amazing. There was a donkey I would totally steal. And a chicken riding a goat. Like you do.

donkey goat with chicken

We also stuck around for the rodeo that started at 7:00. It was pretty insane. Like too insane to take pictures of. One of the events had four guys standing in circles of flame with a loose bull charging them. Whoever was last to still be in their circle won. The bull came out of the pen and galloped straight into the first guy. He probably tossed that guy 20 feet through the air like a rag doll. I was too busy cringing to get pictures. There was also bull riding and other normal rodeo events, but some of the crashes were a bit intense.

Clearly the mule racing was the best. That and the fair food. OMG Fried Pineapple. Anyway, if you ever go to the fair, what’s your favorite part?

*This is post 5 out of 6 for the custom item contest. You need to comment on 5 out of 6 posts to win the custom item.

The winner of the $25 Riding Warehouse gift certificate is Micaylah from Two Points, Tacos, and Tiaras.

33 thoughts on “Mule Racing at the Fair

  1. Teresa

    Mule racing sounds like fun. I wonder what Nilla would think?? The donkey is adorable. I think that once you get your own place there may be a lot more animals in the family……

  2. CobJockey

    Oh my gosh, Bobi McGee! I actually had to wipe coffee off my screen when I saw the picture. That is HILARIOUS! Time for a “Who Wore It Better: Racing Tack Edition” between Bobby McGee (horse) and Bobi McGee (mule).

  3. Shauna

    That. Is. The. Coolest!!! I have heard of Arabian racing, Paint racing and Appaloosa racing, but I’ve never seen/heard of Mule racing! So fun! Those mules look great – so shiny and well cared for.

    The fair sounds like a blast. I wish there was more stuff like that out this way.

    1. Olivia Post author

      The mules all looked great and they were 4-11 years old. The winner was 11. So it seems like a more stable racing career than for TBs.

  4. Stephanie

    When I read “mule racing” I thought it would be a jokey kind of thing, not SUPER SERIOUS mule racing with silks and odds and whatnot! That’s awesome!

  5. Fig

    Mule racing?! I clearly have a new rabbit hole to dive into in my next bout of free time. OTT Arabs make it in endurance, why not OTT mules? Where do they go? Why have I never heard of this?
    I’ve never actually been to a fair, I may have to fix that.

    1. Olivia Post author

      You should totally go. It’s not that far from you. I do wonder what happens with the retired race mules, but I don’t know what happens with the mules. They probably just get sold to packers or western mule riders.

  6. Carly

    AHHAHAHAHA If that’s not a sign from above that Bobby really is a mule at heart, I don’t know what is! Too funny!

  7. irishhorse

    I know Lil Sarah’s owner! Roger Downey is a great among mule racing, and uses retired racing mules as endurance mounts. He competed an endurance ride this recent weekend on a lovely mule, those mules can move down trail almost as fast as the race track! Look for the mules at Tevis this year, he’ll be on one of them. I watched mule racing last year at the Sonoma County Fair, it is great fun.

    1. Olivia Post author

      Lil Sarah was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. She looked like a horse with a mule head. And she was really tall compared to the other ones. I would love to own a mule that nice.

  8. Nicole Sharpe

    Those mules look epic crossing the finish line!! Did you have deep fried snickers? They are so good they should be illegal. I fucking love them.

    1. Olivia Post author

      I would go just to watch the racing. It’s a nice track with the paddocks really close to the stands and the betting booths. Makes for a nice day.

  9. Hannah

    That’s a real interesting mule you bet on. I had no idea mule racing existed, so I started reading about it on the interwebs. I found an interesting article in Daily Racing Form.

    Sarah Nelson beats her clone

    The 14-year-old mule Sarah Nelson defeated her 4-year-old clone Lil Sarah on Thursday at Santa Rosa in a 350-yard mule race, the first time a donor and clone have ever met in a race.

    Sarah Nelson scored the 61st victory of her 113-race career and raised her record earnings total to $280,919. She also has 30 seconds and 10 thirds. Red Rooster was second, with Lil Sarah third. Another entrant, Bar JF Party Girl, also was making her 113th start.

    Roger Downey, who owns Sarah Nelson and Lil Sarah, said the cloning method, done at the University of Idaho, differed from the usual process. Cloning usually involves removing genetic material from the egg of a mare. This was the first time live mule genetic material was used, he said.

    Downey said it cost $60,000 to clone Sarah Nelson.

    “They’re not identical, but they look similar,” Downey said. “You can clone conformation and athletic ability, but can you clone mind and spirit?”

    Downey sees similar traits in the two.

    “They’re both aggressive and they’re arrogant,” he said. “They want you to notice them.”

    “They’re absolutely similar in temperament,” trainer Diana Skinner said. “They both demand attention, and they’re both very observant. They check you out from head to toe.”

    Both like to eat and enjoy treats, although Skinner says she has cut back a bit with Sarah Nelson, who tends to put on weight because of her age.

    Skinner was involved with an earlier clone, Idaho Star, who shared Idaho Gem’s DNA. Neither of them really wanted to race.

    “A lot of them are just doing their job, but it’s in Sarah’s character to be competitive,” she said. “She does have a competitive edge. And Lil Sarah is just figuring it out.”

    1. Olivia Post author

      That’s awesome. I knew racing mules were being cloned, but I didn’t know the one I bet on was one of them. She was a gorgeous mule; I can see why her owner wanted to make her.

Comments are closed.