8 years of age, Jake Nelson is the youngest member of the American Mule
Association. Jake is licensed as an owner by the California Horse Racing Board. He plans on
running his mule, Champagne Charlie, on the California Summer Fair Circuit beginning in June.
is a third grader at Archoe Elementary School in Herald, California. Though
school, Jake would rather be roping or golfing. He started skiing this year at Dodge Ridge with
the help of his friends, Ruth and Ed Burdick.
asked about his plans for the future, Jake says he would like to be a cattle
rancher. As far
racing – right now he has Charlie and a futurity prospect for 2002, Lily. He’s looking forward to
continuing the tradition at the fairs and will be there to yell, "Run Charlie Run!"
What could these two men, one born in a schoolhouse in Wailuku on the island of Maui and the other raised on a dairy farm in Morgan Hill, California, have in common? First, there is an intense love of animals. Then, there is the fact that both have spent most of their adult years working in the grocery business. Finally, there seems to be an innate good guy disposition that pulses through both of them with a generous amount of good luck with equines thrown in.
Bob, who retired as a manager of large chain supermarket, is the more outgoing. He got into the racing business almost twenty years ago by trying to talk his son out of claiming a racehorse. It seems Larry and a couple of his buddies working at a supermarket decided to claim Cool It Red, a quarter horse. One of these buddies was Bob’s son.
When hearing that his son was about to claim a horse, Bob said, “Over my dead body.” I’m not sure who, between Bob and Larry, is the best salesman, but before the conversation was over Bob decided to go into the partnership, too.
Bob spent his early years in Hawaii, the son of an army family stationed there during World War II. Interestingly, his grandfather was a Portuguese born immigrant who migrated to Hawaii early in the century. Bob, with his easygoing manner and positive attitude, was very successful as a supermarket manager. He, now, spends his time working on his small ranch in Manteca, California, raising a few beef cattle, tending his broodmares and foals, securing feed for the racetrack, and helping van animals from track to track.
Larry, who seems reserved when you first meet him, continues to work at a supermarket in Fremont, California. In spite of many efforts from management to get him to become a manager, Larry continues to work the graveyard shift. Why? Getting off work early in the morning allows him to go directly to the racetrack to work with his animals. After training hours, he goes home to sleep. His vacations are always scheduled for the time when the race meets are out of his home area. Race animals are his passion.
The first time Larry was around race mules, he fell in love with them and, then and there, decided that one day he would own one. Guess who the first person was he asked to go into partnership. Bob and Larry negotiated to buy the good mule, Champagne Charlie, near the end of the 2000-racing season. After getting to run him only once, a former owner of Charlie made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. The offer included finding a young mule for them to purchase. The new mule, who has the nickname, Spike, is in training now. Bob gave his share of the partnership to his wife, Helen, as an anniversary gift. Helen is as much an animal lover as Bob. Her other hobby is making dolls from around the world, dressed in native costume.
Since their original partnership horse, Bob and Larry have owned several others, including the appaloosa mare, Kan Win, who they claimed for $2500 and went on that year to win a stake race and remained undefeated for them. They also owned the appaloosa mare, Jackson Fork, who was reserve champion older mare, and several successful quarter horses and thoroughbreds. Larry campaigned the appaloosa two-year-old champion, Leif Erikson to an undefeated season in 1994. Later, Bob became a partner in this horse, too.
Only time will tell if their
new acquisition will turn out to be a successful racing mule, but considering
their track record, I wouldn’t bet against it.