Seven is a lucky number for camel race champ

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal

Karla Burrell credits experience to her first-place finish in the 49th annual Virginia City International Camel Races this weekend.

She has been racing camels for seven years and her time in the odd-shaped saddles on the odd-shaped animals paid off Sunday with the first-place and the Governor's Cup awards.

Though this is the first time she took the top prize overall, she's had many first-place finishes in heats.

"You have to get to know the animal, and get to know how they run," she said.

Though she's never fallen off a camel, she has fallen off ostriches in past years when she raced them. This year, she said, she stuck to camels.

Burrell and her husband, Scott, own Silver Sadies Old-Time Photos in Virginia City, but this weekend she was racing for the combined sponsorship of the Washoe Club and Ponderosa saloons on the Comstock. One of two trophies she received will go to the sponsors.

She also won the Governor's Cup, going to the top racer of the event. She will be able to keep it for a year, and have her name inscribed, but then the pewter and crystal trophy with a camel statue on an oak base will be given to Shorty Smith of Tasmania, who won it three times.

Mike Wright of the International Order of Camel Jockeys said the person who wins it the most gets to keep it after five races.

Coming in second was Garrick Jackson of Klamath Falls, Ore., riding Snickers, and third place went to Andrew Cartwright of Alice Springs, Australia, riding Qatar.

This year instead of just a starting line, camel provider Joe Hedrick of Hedrick's Promotions brought along an actual starting gate, and included camel, ostrich and emu racing as well as between-race entertainment that included belly dancers, a zebra that did tricks, an ice-eating contest and a country-music singer.

He has done the Virginia City camel races on three separate occasions, he said.

Hedrick owns Hedrick's Promotions as well as Hedrick's Exotic Animal Farm in Nickerson, Kan., where he keeps animals for all kinds of races, including pigs, and also provides animals for petting zoos.

He said this year's event went very well, despite Hedrick's being called in to provide the camels and ostriches just last month.

"We had no injuries, just some bumps and bruises," he said. "That's what I call successful."

He said the crowds were good all weekend, especially on Saturday, which was very busy.

"I'm glad to be back," he said. "Virginia City is one-of-a-kind. It could be great if they could see eye to eye. The setting is good. We've always been treated good. My people look forward to it."

- Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at or call 881-7351.


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