Worldly Mula Gula goes for the Million
By Jay Maebori, Eastside Journal, August 19, 2000
Steven Gula got into the hotel elevator with members of the British press and thought he could remain anonymous. The Mercer Island horse owner's face is not yet recognizable, but his name clearly is.
"Oh yes, Mula Gula, we've been following that horse," the London scribes told Gula."We've been watching him."
Apparently, Mula Gula has gone global.
The former $6,000 yearling purchase will run in one of the world's richest horse races, today's $2 million Arlington Million at Arlington International Racecourse near Chicago.
Gula, a life-long Eastsider, never imagined this fate for the first horse he ever bought.
"Not in a million years," Gula said on Thursday. "It's strange to have people from around the world know of a horse from the Pacific Northwest. I was really amazed by the international recognition this horse as achieved. Who would have thought this Lil E. Tee colt who started his career at Emerald Downs would be running in one of the feature races in the world?"
Two years ago, Mula Gula won the WTBA Lads at Emerald Downs. The race is today's co-feature at the Auburn racetrack -- the same day he's running for the $1.3 million winner's share.
Mula Gula was nominated for tomorrow's Longacres Mile. But the horse had been working so strongly that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer suggested Gula take a shot at the big prize. Today's 18th running of the Million, and first since 1997, will be covered by more than 250 journalists and over a billion people will be able to watch it on TV.
"I can honestly say I have a very calm disposition," Gula said, "but for this particular race, I've been pretty restless."
Breaking from the extreme outside, Mula Gula completes a seven-horse field going 1 miles on the immaculate Arlington turf. The 4-year-old colt, who will be ridden by Arlington's leading jockey, Mark Guidry, was made the longest shot on the morning line at 12-1, a distinction he shares with Kentucky-bred Running Stag.
Interestingly, Mula Gula is the only horse in the field to have beaten Manndar, the Arlington Million's 5-2 morning-line favorite.
"We're looking good. Mula's ears are perked up," Gula said. "Mula Gula likes the outside spot. I think it works in his favor. There's some front speed in the race, so we'll sit back and relax and enjoy the ride, and come running the last two furlongs. He's a happy camper."
Gula said the turf course at Arlington is in such good shape that "the groundskeepers could work for the Seattle Mariners." Guidry certainly knows how to negotiate the grass there with a 113-69-71 record in 456 mounts at Arlington. The second-place rider has just 48 wins.
ESPN will begin its coverage at 1 p.m. A crowd of nearly 40,000 is expected at Arlington.
"It's just an incredible scene here," Gula said. "It's similar to what you would see at Seafair. It reminds me of the hydroplanes."
Today, Gula can only hope his horse skims over the turf and turns into Miss Bud.