It’s horse racing season at the Sonoma County Fair.  Horse racing is photographically like bicycle racing (ever see a horse on a bike Mr. Ed?)  the competitors go by…quickly.  If you mess up the exposure or are back focused in this autofocus world, you’ll have to wait another time chomping 25 minutes to get them going around again.

One of my favorite’s is the mule race.  Race organizers schedule one every day, usually the first or second race. Sometimes the mules go off with nary a problem, they gallop on by with those huge ears pointing towards the sun.  A few years ago, I shot a pretty nice picture of a jockey falling off a mule.  Thankfully, the jockey was uninjured save for a bit of his pride.  I garnered a slew (pun) of awards for the photo below.

Jockey Robert Anderson is thrown off his mule, Classy Recruit, during Wednesday August 2, 2006, first race of the Wine Country Racing at the Sonoma County Fair in Santa Rosa. Anderson was not hurt and took part in the next race. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2006

Mules can be unpredictable when it comes to racing, so officials set  the length at 350 yards.  I’m not sure if it’s an attention span thing, but three and one-half football fields seems like an appropriate distance.

Mules, in their maiden race, bolt out of the gate Wednesday July 28, 2010 at the Sonoma County Fair. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2010

On Wednesday July 28,  I positioned myself halfway between the gate and  finish line just in case something odd were to take place. The race went off without a hitch really; mules ran past me, albeit a tad clumsily.  I follow focused, when at the very end jockey Gregorio Arriaga was bucked from his mount My Allowance, after a victorious finish.

Gregorio Arriaga aboard My Allowance, left, gallops down the homestretch Wednesday July 28, 2010 during the Sonoma County Fair. (Kent Porter / Press democrat) 2010.

If you’ve read this blog during the week, I’ve complained bitterly about the fog and the cool weather.  Wednesday, the shroud of stratus lifted early, heating the track.  The 400mm lens on my camera and an enlargement of the image on a computer screen exacerbated sun created heat waves, which were my photographic undoing.  The picture below is sharp, but unprintable in the newspaper.  At least I can put it here.

Gregorio Arriaga falls from My Allowance after winning a mule race, Wednesday July 28, 2010 during the Sonoma County Fair. (Kent Porter / Press democrat) 2010.

Two morals here.

Never, ever trust a mule.

Never complain about the weather.

-Kent Porter