Sorteado (ARG): The Pride of the Pampas

Sorteado (ARG) – 1935 ch. h. by Tresiete (ARG)-Sentina (ARG) by Fisherman (ARG)
“The Stagehand of South America” and “The Pride of the Pampas”

Owner: Caballeriza La Susanita or Haras Lonquimay (in Argentina); Charles S. Howard (in United States)
Trainer: Tom Smith (in United States)

Record (in Argentina): at least (4) 4-0-0, possibly up to 12 starts
Champion 3-year-old colt in Argentina
Won Argentine Triple Crown
1st: Gran Premio Polla de Potrillos (1600mT), Gran Premio Jockey Club (2000mT), Gran Premio Nacional (2500m)

Record (in United States): (12) 2-2-2 / $20,000
1st: Aloha H. (NTR-12f,HP), Manhattan H. (NAR-12f,BEL)
2nd: Governor’s H. (9f,NAR)
3rd: Narragansett Special (9.5f,NAR)

NTR at Hollywood Park (7/29/1939): 12f in 2:29, carrying 109 lbs.
NAR at Belmont Park (9/23/1939): 12f in 2:28 2/5, carrying 112 lbs.

The Baltimore Sun

Sorteado was noted to be a “fine looking horse with an alert, intelligent head and a good manner of running.” Photo: The Baltimore Sun.

Foaled in Argentina in September 1935, Sorteado grew to quick acclaim, winning the Gran Premio Polla de Potrillos (1600mT), the Gran Premio Jockey Club (2000mT), and the Gran Premio Nacional (2500m) – three races which comprise the Argentine Triple Crown.

Sorteado’s total race record in Argentina is uncertain, but in addition to the aforementioned three races, he is also noted as winning “one other outstanding event.” He possibly made up to twelve starts in South America.

Drawing comparisons to American champion 3-year-old colt Stagehand, Sorteado was purchased for $40,000 by Charles S. Howard in late 1938, arriving in the United States via steamer in December. Also aboard the transport were the South American horses Don Mike, Etolia (raced as Etolia II), Preceptor, Profundo, and Ras Taffari. An early goal set for Sorteado upon arrival was the Santa Anita Handicap in March 1939. He was also reportedly nominated for the Widener Challenge Cup Handicap (later the Widener Handicap) at Hialeah Park in March.

“Horace Luro [future Hall of Fame trainer Horatio A. Luro] stated that Sorteado, the recent South American purchase of Charles S. Howard, is, off his performances below the equator, the greatest horse yet to be brought to this country from the Argentine.” – Daily Racing Form, 12/15/1938

Sorteado - LA Times 12.10.1938

Sorteado - DRF 12.19.1938

As Sorteado was foaled in September 1935 on the Southern Hemisphere breeding schedule, as of January 1, 1939 he would race in North America as a 4-year-old – even though he was chronologically three years of age and would remain so for some time.

Sorteado’s U.S. debut came in the Palisades Handicap (6f) at Santa Anita on February 7. On a track rated fast, but “dull underfoot,” Sorteado would finish last in the field of six. Despite the poor performance, he received rave reviews all around. As published in The Los Angeles Times on February 8:

Racing writer Oscar Otis: “Usually, the laurel wreaths are given to the victor in a race. Leading Article ran a smashing race to win. But, according to these two [jockey George Woolf and Santa Anita racing secretary Webb Everett], Sorteado’s debut in California was the best ever made by a foreign race horse.”

Jockey George Woolf: “I hit him once with the whip and he fairly leaped from under me. At the head of the stretch, I was only a length off the pace. I thought for a moment he was going on to take command. Then Sorteado appeared to tire. He plainly was short. He’s a whale of a horse…”

Faith in Sorteado - LA Times 02.08.1939Owner Charles S. Howard: “I didn’t expect Sorteado to win,” said Howard. “After all he was up against the best sprinters in America. Georgie Woolf told me Sorteado dwelt at the gate and that the horse tired a bit after gamely making up much ground…Yes, we hope to start him again next week if there is a suitable race…A little more distance should be to his liking as the South American wins were scored at a mile or more.”

Sorteado would make an additional start at Santa Anita to end the month of February, finishing thirteenth in a field of seventeen behind winner Whichcee in the San Antonio Handicap (9f) on February 26.

MARCH 1939
Making a quick turnaround from the San Antonio H., Sorteado‘s next race was the Santa Anita Handicap (1 ¼ mi.) on March 4. He would finish fifteenth behind his winning stablemate Kayak II (ARG).

Kayak II’s final time of 2:01 2/5 in the Santa Anita H. was a track record, lowering the record set by Stagehand in the 1938 edition of the race. Whichcee would finish second, with Main Man third. In post-race analysis, it was noted that Sorteado “Appears to have failing common to other Argentine horses that they do not like to be bothered, hence are at sea in large fields unless lucky to obtain clear racing room.” – Paul Lowry (Los Angeles Times, 03/04/1939)

MAY 1939
After an extended break, Sorteado would finish second by two lengths to Pit Bull in a six furlong “featured sprint” at Bay Meadows on May 24.

“Sorteado ran second to Pit Bull, but he was positively flying at the finish and showed himself to be clearly in need of the race… He was outpaced early in the run down the backstretch but started to move in the middle of the track rounding the turn for home and was making up ground by leaps and bounds in the final 16th…” – Oscar Otis (The Los Angeles Times, 05/25/1939)

Records of Sorteado’s summer campaign are incomplete, but it is possible he ran in a six furlong handicap race at Hollywood Park on June 22.  His next confirmed start would come in the Mt. Hollywood Handicap (8f) at Hollywood Park on July 11, where he would finish third behind Can’t Wait and Flying Wild. It had been a rough start so far in North America for the Pride of the Pampas; however, a reversal in fortunes was about to befall him.

“The Argentine lemon finally turned into a ripe, luscious California orange.” – Paul Lowry (Los Angeles Times, 07/30/1939)

Sorteado’s first win in North America would come in his first attempt at 1 ½ miles. Carrying 109 lbs., he would turn in a remarkable performance in the Aloha Handicap (12f) at Hollywood Park on July 29, winning by 3 ½ lengths and setting a new track record of 2:29. Specify (116 lbs.) was second in the field of seven, with Cravat (130 lbs.) five lengths behind in third.

Sorteado - Aloha headline“But remaining close to Specify’s sizzling early pace Sorteado was sent to the front by Ralph Neves in the stretch, and surged past Specify so easily that it literally shocked a crowd of 30,000 persons into silence. Not until the chestnut Argentine flashed over the line all by himself did the crowd break into a mighty roar, and he was given a tremendous ovation when returned to the winner’s circle to be crowned by Gracie Allen and George Burns.” – Paul Lowry (Los Angeles Times, 07/30/1939)

As a foal of September 1935, Sorteado chronologically turns four years old.

Travelling to the east coast, Sorteado’s first stop would land him at Narragansett Park, where he would finish third by seven lengths behind Challedon and Kayak II in the Narragansett Special (1 3/16 mi.) on September 2. Two weeks later, he would finish second to Pagliacci in the (Rhode Island) Governor’s H. (9f) on September 16.

The New York Times, 09/24/1939

Leaving Rhode Island for Belmont Park, Sorteado’s second start at 1 ½ miles would come in the then run on dirt Manhattan Handicap on September 23. Similar to his performance in the Aloha H. back in July, Sorteado (carrying 112 lbs.) would devastate his opponents as well as the stopwatch, defeating Cravat (120 lbs.) by a half-length while setting a new American record of 2:28 2/5*. This time lowered the previous record held jointly by War Admiral and Handy Mandy by 1/5 of a second.

*Sorteado’s final time in the Manhattan H. is listed in numerous modern sources as 2:28. However, multiple published sources from the time of the race list his final time as 2:28 2/5.

Sorteado - PHOTO Manhattan win NYT 09.24.1939

Photo: The New York Times, 09/24/1939

“There may be an excuse for Sorteado’s lateness in reaching his best form in America, though. The colt was racing under conditions with which he had to familiarize himself. In the Argentine, race horses run clockwise, a la British tracks, and there is evidence that that fact accounted for Sorteado’s slowness in getting started on what is reaching a brilliant campaign.” – This Morning With Shirley Povich (The Washington Post, 09/24/1939)

Even though Sorteado’s proven strength in North America so far had shown to be the mile and a half, excitement began to grow about his potential appearance in the Pimlico Special (9.5f) on November 1 against the top handicap horses of the year.

“In the more polite circles one does not demand an invitation to a party, but that’s what the South American colt, Sorteado, did at Belmont yesterday. He made it plain to the folks at Pimlico that he expects a bid to their Pimlico Special affair on November 1, when the upper crust of thoroughbred society – Challedon, Johnstown, and Eighty [sic] Thirty – are scheduled to take the track.” – Shirley Povich (The Washington Post, 09/24/1939)

To this point in Sorteado’s career, he had been insured under a $40,000 policy with Lloyd’s of London. The day after the Manhattan H., Howard was offered the chance to increase the amount to $50,000. He would decline.

Continuing on to Jamaica Park, the fourth start of Sorteado’s eastern campaign would come in the inaugural running of the Gallant Fox H. (13f) on October 12.

“Going to the post Sorteado looked trained to the minute and ready to do his best. He broke fastest and was sent to the front at once. This was in the run from the starting post in the backstretch, around the bend to the head of the stretch.

It was while going smoothly, and in full stride, that Sorteado met his mishap. Whether he clipped himself or whether there was an inherent weakness ready to give way, probably never will be known. But coming to the top of the stretch Jockey Woolf was suddenly seen to take back sharply.

From outside the eighth pole, to the finish line, a distance of about 300 yards, and a time lapse of about fifteen seconds, saw Woolf finally get Sorteado to a stop so that he could leap off. Discussing what Woolf felt and thought, Mr. Howard said: “Woolf said he felt something go – or snap – as he came into the stretch. He thought it was a bone that broke. There was nothing he could do but pull up.”  – Bryan Field (The New York Times, 10/13/1939)

Sorteado - NYT 10.13.1939

Photo: The New York Times, 10/13/1939

Throughout his short career in the U.S., Sorteado had possessed quite a bit of charisma, and was always spoken of highly in the media – regardless of whether his performance at the time warranted it. So it’s not surprising that his injury tugged at the heartstrings of many, and members of the public reached out to Howard to offer their support in treating the injury.

Cincinnati dentist Dr. Paul Wehner proposed treating Sorteado with a special cast made of dental stone with joints and drainage tubes inserted where/when needed. His supplemental treatment would include frequent cast changes under anesthesia and a calcium rich diet. Wehner stated this treatment saved the stakes horse Prince Pine as well as five additional horses. Pennsylvania veterinarian Dr. Otto Stader contacted Howard about using a supportive splint he devised which had previously been used on horses with success, and had also treated the leg of a deer successfully.

However, Sorteado’s injury was too great.

“Sorteado should be destroyed,” Howard said – and it was obvious that the thought was painful to him. “I had ordered him destroyed Saturday, but the insurance company is holding it up.” – The Washington Post, 10/30/1939

On November 1, Lloyd’s of London relents and Sorteado was euthanized at Belmont Park. That same day in Baltimore, Challedon would win the Pimlico Special over Kayak II and Cravat.

Sorteado - Wash Post 11.02.1939

“Attended 24 hours a day by his exercise boy, Jack Roebuck, Sorteado was made as comfortable as possible until the end. He could bear no weight on the injured foot and spent most of his time lying on the thick hay in his stall. Roebuck, who had been with the horse since he arrived in this country a year ago, gave his charge a last meal of corn, bran and oat mash shortly [before] afternoon; and Sorteado was still munching away when Howard’s veterinarian, Dr. F. C. Beller, arrived.

“That’s right,” Beller said, “never kill a man or a horse or a dog without a full stomach.”

When Beller ordered Roebuck to lead Sorteado out in front of the stable, the boy pleaded: “Don’t you wanna let him finish eatin’ first, doc?”

But Beller didn’t answer and tears came to the boy’s eyes as he took Sorteado’s halter down off a nail in the wall. As he led the horse from the stall, the sun broke out from behind the clouds, and the boy patted his nose and said, “Take a good look at it, this is your last chance.”

Sorteado hobbled on his three good legs out in front of the long barn. Dr. Beller followed with his syringe of strychnine. A moment after the injection, Sorteado shuddered, fell to his knees and rolled over. The sun went back behind the clouds.” – The Washington Post, 11/02/1939

Sorteado’s injury was investigated post-mortem, and it was significantly worse than anyone could have imagined.

“At first it was thought Sorteado had snapped a ligament in his right foreleg, and that he could be saved for stud. But X-rays showed a snapped sesamoid bone. Instead of knitting together, the bones began separating further each day, and a post-mortem today showed a large piece of flesh had come between the parted segments…After the post-mortem on the fetlock joint, Beller and Southard agreed that an infection would have set up within a few days that would have caused the horse terrific pain.” – The Washington Post, 11/02/1939

“Before Sorteado was buried at Belmont Park, his forefeet were removed. They will be gilded and mounted with a record of his performances for Mr. Howard’s collection.” – The New York Times, 11/02/1939

There appears to be no official record of Sorteado’s gravesite at Belmont Park, and it is unknown if he was interred in an unmarked grave or if he was even buried on the property at all. If he indeed is at Belmont, hopefully one day his grave can be marked in order to give him the honor and respect he deserves.

In December 1939, for the fourth year in a row, Turf and Sports Digest would release the results of their year-end polling to determine the champion horses of 1939 in their respective categories.

Sorteado poll - Wash Post 12.12.1939Sorteado would finish fourth in the voting for Champion 4-Year-Old & Up with 73 points, ahead of Isolator (69 pts.), Sickled T (35 pts.) and Masked General (24 pts.). Kayak II (618 pts.) would take home the year-end honor, with Fighting Fox (212 pts.) finishing second, and Cravat (145 pts.) third.

Sorteado’s memory would linger throughout the early 1940s with the running of the Sorteado H. (12f) at Belmont Park, a race won by Paul Pry (1941) and Corydon (1942).

The shipment of Argentinian horses arriving in December 1938 appears to have been unlucky – of the six aforementioned horses noted to have been aboard, three would be dead by the end of 1940. In addition to Sorteado, Profundo died of lockjaw at Hollywood Park in April 1940, while Etolia II was euthanized in November 1940 as a result of injuries suffered when colliding with another horse during a workout.

Sorteado’s chestnut full brother Souto (foaled 1937 in Argentina) was purchased by Howard and settled in the U.S. by the summer of 1940. While Souto was nominated for the Hollywood Derby in July 1940, he would not make his first start until Santa Anita in January 1941. He would make four starts from 1941 to 1942, never finishing in the money.

His full brother Supremo (foaled 1940 in Argentina) would become a multiple stakes winner in Argentina and enter stud at the conclusion of his racing career, siring at least sixty-three known foals.

Souto - LA Times 12.22.1940

Souto (on right) working in company with Mioland at Santa Anita Park, 12/1940. Photo: Los Angeles Times, 12/22/1940.


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