Black Ruby, the "Secretariat of Mules," will square off with her archrival Taz in the first pari-mutuel mule race ever held at Los Alamitos Race Course on May 23. The two popular mules will compete in a $10,000 "Battle of the Titans" match race at 300 yards. Black Ruby has been assigned 130 pounds while Taz will carry 127 pounds. The winner will earn $6,000. Fans will be able to make win bets on the race. Mule racing will become an important part of the racing program at Los Alamitos in 2003. The Orange County oval will host more races for the breed throughout the meet. Los Alamitos will host at least one additional mule race on May 23. This race will be a $7,000 test at 350 yards for mules 4-year-olds and upwards with an 85-speed index or under. The main event will be the showdown between the world's most famous mule, Black Ruby, and her longtime nemesis Taz. While Black Ruby is considered the greatest of all time, Taz has beaten her in the recent past. In fact, Taz got the better of the 11-year-old chestnut mare last summer, defeating the champion by a head at Sacramento in August. Racing 440 yards, Taz held off Black Ruby to reward his backers with $6.40 payout for the win. Black Ruby returned with a pair of high profile victories over Taz, first at Del Mar and then at Fairplex Park in the summer. Taz posted courageous efforts each time, especially at Fairplex, where he crossed the wire just a half-length behind the champion mule. In the 2002 race season, Black Ruby and Taz raced against each other nine times. Their season-long feud earned the pair the award for Rivalry of the Year during TVG Network's Viewer's Choice Awards. Owned by Mary and Sonny McPherson and trained by Ron White, Black Ruby has won 51 of 58 career starts and 11 of her last 12 outings. She holds two world records, one at 870 yards, and the other at 440 yards. She holds track records at five of the six California racetracks that feature mule races. She is the only mule who has won at every distance from 250 to 870 yards and her career bankroll is nearly $200,000. Taz ia a top two finisher in 52 of 66 career starts.
"We're sure going to try to beat her," said Ed Burdick, who trains the 9-year-old brown gelding Taz for Don Jacklin of Post Falls, Idaho. "We're certainly not going to Los Alamitos to get outrun. We started training Taz a month sooner after his long layoff (his last race came on Oct. 6). He is right on target with his works and all of his drills. He will be 100 percent on May 23. "They've faced each other so many times and they've always been competitive. I would love to see Taz beat her again. We can make things really exciting if we're able to dethrone the champion"