Nov. 1946: Ortello (ITY) arrives in the United States, becomes embroiled in scandal

PHOTO - Ortello arrival (NYT 1946.11.27)

The New York Times, 11/27/1946

In late November 1946, the 20-year-old Teddy (FR) stallion Ortello (ITY) was imported into the United States by Maj. Richard Hamilton and Royal Eastman for stud duties at William “Bill” Stremmel’s Glen Cove Stud in Vallejo, CA.

Winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in 1929 and six-time leading sire in Italy, Ortello was said to have been previously ordered by Mussolini to remain in Italy on account of national pride. Ortello’s sale price varied depending on the source, with the amount said to be $50,000, $60,000, $90,000, all the way up to an incredible $250,000. Upon purchase, he was reportedly insured for $200,000.

Standing for a $2,500 fee, Ortello’s stud career in the United States would be short-lived. He would suffer a heart attack at Glen Cove on April 5, 1947, ultimately being listed as the sire of record for only four foals the next year. It would not be revealed until those four foals were 2-year-olds that Ortello, who had proved to be mostly infertile while at Glen Cove, had not sired any living foals. Ortello had in fact legitimately sired two foals; however, both foals were born dead at Glen Cove in early 1948.

Ultimately, the four Ortello foals were only a small part of a conspiracy on part of Bill Stremmel to mislead the public regarding the parentage of foals born at the farm. Not only were the sires of foals misreported, but in some cases the foals were reported to have been out of mares that were long dead.

“When undistinguished mares had babies at his Glen Cove Stud in California, Stremmel registered the foals as sons or daughters of more fashionable ladies. In two cases the mothers he named on the papers were dead. Stremmel got in so deep that he wound up stuck with four foals and no mares that he could list as their dams.” (Red Smith / The Washington Post, 01/08/1971)

Ultimately, seventeen foals from the 1947 and 1948 Glen Cove crops would be allowed racing permits by the Jockey Club, but barred from the stud book as a result of unidentifiable parentage. The four “Ortello” foals in question were Contractor, King Ortello, Ortell Me, and Ortello Red, with the other thirteen horses being Ambling Andy, Boots K, Gentle Miss, Hen Sprig, Jewel Design, Johnny Peck, John’s Pet, King Rail, Lyre Bird, Panabeen, Ptarmigan, Sparrow, and Woodcock.

In addition to these aforementioned seventeen horses, an additional fourteen horses bred at Glen Cove in 1949 and 1950 would have their registrations cancelled, for a total of thirty-one horses reduced to “scraps of paper.”

Bill Stremmel was ruled off the turf by the Jockey Club on July 19, 1950.

“The Hollywood Park conflagration posed some problems for the California thoroughbred breeders, as well as the track management. James G. Jackson, registrar for the breeders, has been extremely busy during the last few weeks revising plans for the annual summer vendue of the California bloodstock owners, and has advised that a satisfactory arrangement has been made. The sale will be held at Hollywood Park instead of at Santa Anita, and the dates for the vendue have been expanded to three nights instead of two. The evening auctions will be conducted on July 18, 19 and 20. … three of the four existing Ortello colts in this state also will go under the hammer.” (Oscar Otis / Daily Racing Form, 06/01/1949)

“The Bill Stremmel case is California’s shame if the charges against the Vallejo (Cal.) breeder are true, and Marshall Cassidy, executive secretary of the Jockey Club, says they have been substantiated.

At Belmont the other day Cassidy said the stud groom had confessed to his part in the false registration of 17 horses, foals of 1947 and 1948, at the Vallejo ranch. These will be barred from racing. Several of the involved horses are registered as having been sired by Ortello, an imported stallion. It is said that all of is get either were born dead or died soon after foaling. Ortello died shortly after arrival in this country.” (Paul Lowry / Los Angeles Times, 05/18/1950)

“The stewards of The Jockey Club announced yesterday that Bill Stremmel, owner and operator of the Glen Cove Stud at Vallejo, Calif., has been ruled off the tracks under the jurisdiction of The Jockey Club.

A written statement issued by that body said that during the week of July 10, the stewards of The Jockey Club held several meetings to receive depositions, review reports and interrogate witnesses in the case of the alleged false registrations by Stremmel.”
(The New York Times, 07/24/1950)

“Buyers of a couple of 2-year-old race horses demand return of their money and a total of $50,000 damages besides in suits filed in Superior Court on the complaint that the animals were not sired by the late Ortello, Italian stakes winner, as represented.

In one suit, J. A. Davis, Pasadena contractor, asks for recovery of $6,128, the original purchase price plus training expenses for the colt, Contractor, and $25,000 damages over the asserted misrepresentation.

Elwood B. Johnston, pie manufacturer, filed the second suit over the filly Ortell Me. He demands refund of $5,000 and $25,000 damages.

Both suits were brought against William J. Mack, San Francisco photographic equipment dealer, from whom Davis and Johnston assert they bought their horses in July, 1949, at an auction conducted at Hollywood Park. The two petitioners, represented by Atty. Don Marlin, state that two months ago the New York Jockey Club, governing body of racing, formally notified them that their horses were not sired by Ortello but that Mack has refused to rescind the deals.”
(Los Angeles Times, 10/16/1950)

“Stewards of the Jockey Club yesterday said that foals owned by Bill Stremmel of California or sold by him after July 19, 1950, when he was ruled off the turf, would not be eligible for racing permits. Stremmel, barred for “falsifying registration papers,” had asked the stewards for a ruling on the status of these foals, The United Press reported.”
(The New York Times, 05/29/1951)

“Al Fiske of the California Horse Racing board came up with a quick answer as to why Moe Locke’s Plum County is not eligible to run in races limited to California-bred horses.

Plum County is one of the horses that was denied registry in the stud book when breeding inaccuracies were discovered at Bill Stremmel’s Glen Cove stud. He has raced under Jockey Club Permit 030 here and at Caliente.

At the racing secretary’s office Locke was told he didn’t have a horse, just a ‘scrap of paper.’

The Explanation
The more diplomatic Fiske explains that Plum County can’t race as a Calbred because he has no registered sire or dam. It is impossible for Plum County to be registered as a Calbred for this reason.

Nor can the applicant ‘certify that the above foal (Plum County) was dropped by a mare in California after being bred in California and remaining in the State until said foal was weaned.’

It seems that the investigation conducted by the Jockey Club of New York and Fiske’s men of the State Racing Board disclosed the possibility that some of the mares from Glen Cove were sent elsewhere to be bred and dropped foals in other States.

The trouble all started when the imported Italian stallion Ortello, aged and said to have been sterile at the time, died shortly after the start of a breeding season. According to the evidence uncovered mares were bred to other stallions but an attempt made to register them as the offspring of Ortello’s.

The whole crop fell under the ban, but the Jockey Club and the Racing Board, in an effort to protect innocent buyers, have let the horses race under permits.”
(Paul Lowry / Los Angeles Times, 08/30/1951)

“Hal Seley paid the top price of $7200 for one of those horses from the Glen Cove stud that fell under the ban of the Jockey Club. The youngster was supposed to be by Ortello, but the investigation is said to have uncovered that Ortello was dead and the horse was actually by Andy K. Seley has a suit pending that will be heard this fall.”
(Paul Lowry / Los Angeles Times, 09/09/1951)

“William Stremmel had a stallion named Ortello which was no Errol Flynn on a date. In the last year of his life, Ortello got only two of his mares in foal and in both cases the foals were born dead. Nevertheless, Stremmel registered four foals as offspring of Ortello.

Evidently falsifying pedigrees is habit forming. When undistinguished mares had babies at his Glen Cove Stud in California, Stremmel registered the foals as sons or daughters of more fashionable ladies. In two cases the mothers he named on the papers were dead. Stremmel got in so deep that he wound up stuck with four foals and no mares that he could list as their dams.

When the TRPB finished its investigation, the Jockey Club canceled 17 foal registrations, rejected 14 more that were pending, and Stremmel’s career as a thoroughbred breeder ended.”
(Red Smith / The Washington Post, 01/08/1971)


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