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Virl Norton wins The Great American Horse Race
 
   

Ahead of all the rest in undisputed first place ran Virl O. Norton, "The Mule Man." His one crew man was his son Pierce, "The Mule Boy". Only three other entrants ever made legitimate attempts for the lead, and they were outlasted and outrun by the mules. When the race was threatened with an early conclusion, Virl had moved into first place. He was first at Kankakee, first at Hannibal, first at Cheyenne and held the lead longer than any other rider. He was never lower than third place at any time during the race after the second week. He alternated riding both mules but withdrew Lady Eloise toward the end finishing strong on Lord Fauntleroy, who was fit to continue.

From the beginning, he said he expected to win and explained how he would. Coming from Virl Norton, these matter of fact statements didn't seem boastful. He just said what he was going to do; then he did it. Before the race, he said he had some of the best Arabian horses in California but had decided to leave them at home. In Frankfort, he cautioned, "Watch the mules. They're tougher and can take the tough terrain better than a horse," he said. He felt his mules could match the Arabian horses at endurance because this was going to be a long race, not a fast one.

His strategy was to plod along, and that he did, everywhere. On blacktop, rocks, plains, desert, mountains, everywhere, he kept a steady 10 MPH pace. He explained why on the few occasions when he went faster. The front runners opened a huge lead on the remainder of the field and then held on until the end. At the end, only two of the front runners, Norton and Ashley, were still entered, and only the mules were strong and sound.

Virl graciously displayed horsemanship and gentlemanly behavior, but he was as tough as his mules. He was physically strong and smart enough to choose the right mounts, half thoroughbred mules. He planned his race carefully and then outran them all. Since the Great American Horse Race, Virl has ridden the Tevis eight times, three times on a horse but five times on Leroy.

The Great American Mule Race. Norton, The Mule Man, was the perfect winner!
Norton and his mules today are retired in the Almaden section of San Jose.

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