Bargain hunter struck gold with Mula Gula
By Steve Andersen, Daily Racing Form, August 14, 1999
DEL MAR, California. - None of this good fortune was supposed to happen to Steven Gula.
Three years ago, when a bloodstock agent acquainted with his father, Ben, asked Steven Gula if he would like to become involved in racing, Steven said he would but only for less than $15,000.
Thinking frugality would scare off the agent, Steven Gula never expected to hear anything more, until a call came during the fall sales in Kentucky.
"Congratulations," the agent said. "You're the father of a baby horse."
And with a $6,000 investment, Steven Gula owned a Lil E. Tee colt who was later named Mula Gula. The horse has become a gold mine for the jet fuel distributor from Mercer Island, Wash.
On Sunday at Del Mar, Mula Gula, a winner of 3 of 10 starts and $158,730, makes his first start in a major turf stakes in the $150,000 La Jolla Handicap over 1 1/16 miles.
Steven Gula, who is in the process of buying another horse, will be there, grateful he paid what these days amounts to a pittance for a racehorse.
Just last week he turned down a $450,000 offer for Mula Gula, whose biggest win came in a division of the restricted Oceanside Stakes here July 22, the colt's turf debut.
"This is the first horse I've ever owned," the 35-year-old Gula said. "It has been a lot of fun. Talk about a miracle."
Ben Gula owned horses in the 1970's, including one that carried his namesake. When it came time for Steven to name his colt, he kept the last name but added a twist. "People go to the races to make money, so I came up with Mula," he said.
Mula Gula won for the first time in the Washington Thoroughbred Breeders Association Laddie Stakes at a mile last August at Emerald Downs and finished second in the $90,000 Joe Gottstein Futurity, his final start in Washington state.
Transferred to Jerry Hollendorfer at the beginning of the year, Mula Gula won an allowance race at Golden Gate Fields in May before finishing second in the California Derby and fourth in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap at Hollywood Park in late June.
He won his division of the Oceanside by 2 1/2 lengths and has come back to work well on turf since that race. In the Grade 3 La Jolla, he will face Domination, who won the other division of the Oceanside; and Fighting Falcon, the winner of the Grade 3 Cinema Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 5.
Mula Gula will be ready for all comers, his enthusiastic owner said.
"He's the best he has ever been," Gula said. "I was very impressed with the performance in the Oceanside. He has quite a kick and if we end up with Domination and a few others on the lead, the race sets up well for us."