Sofala (1898 ch. f. by Balgowan – Apozea by Bishop)
Breeder/Owner: Barney Schreiber (Woodlands Stud, Missouri)
Trainers: Dick Williams and Felix Carr
“There are two propositions about Sofala. Either she is an equine wonder or there are no good 2-year-olds at San Francisco. She has shown that nothing there can be classed with her. She is Miss Woodford, Firenzi, Thora, Yo Tambien, and Imp all in one so far as the Pacific coast is concerned…”
Record: (18) 12-2-1
1st: Gebhard S. (170 ft. less than 6f,OAK), Western S. (5f,TAN)
NTR and world 2YO record at Tanforan (01/19/1900): 3f in :35 ½.
NTR at Tanforan (02/24/1900): 4f in :48
Winner of 12 of her first 14 starts, all of which were run before April 15 of her 2-year-old year, including six starts in the month of January.
A homebred for Barney Schreiber’s Woodlands Stud (Bridgeton, MO), Sofala was a “medium-sized,” “racy-looking, well made youngster” by the stakes winning Strathmore horse Balgowan and the first foal out of the Bishop mare Apozea.
Balgowan was a multiple stakes winner (incl. Hyde Park S., Kentucky Central H., Maxwell House H., Merchants H., Peabody Hotel H., Saratoga S., Southern Hotel S.) who passed through several hands during his racing career before being purchased by Schreiber in late 1894. While Schreiber’s initial intent was for the then 6-year-old Balgowan to join his racing string in California, the horse was ultimately retired to Woodlands for stud duties in the spring of 1895, where he would remain until his death in September 1908.
In addition to Sofala, Balgowan would sire the handicapper Gus Heidorn (1901 b. c. o/o Charmion by Tyrant) and the filly Sylvia Talbot (1900 ch. f. o/o Parolee by Panique), a stakes winner who would set a track record for 6 ½ furlongs (1:19) at Washington Park at the age of three.
Apozea (aka Apoza, Spozea, Spozia) was purchased by Schreiber for $210 as an unbroken and untried 2-year-old at auction in late June 1896. Out of the Vauxhall mare Patricia, Apozea was a half-sister to 1891 Kentucky Derby winner Kingman (by Glengarry (GB)), a race in which the aforementioned Balgowan would finish second.
In a “farcical race” that was said to be “tame, flat and uninteresting” and won in “selling plater time,” Kingman’s final time of 2:52 ¼ (over a track rated slow) holds the honor of being the slowest Kentucky Derby (then at 12 furlongs) winning time in history. A multiple stakes winner during his career, Kingman would pass away at the age of five leaving no produce.
Apozea would race at least once as a 2-year-old, finishing last of nine in a five furlong dash at St. Louis in late August 1896 before being bred to Balgowan in the spring of 1897. Sofala was the first foal for the then 4-year-old Apozea, who would ultimately produce at least ten foals, including three full siblings to Sofala: Charles Green (1903 ch. g.), Alice Collins (1906 b. f.), and Louise B. (1908 b. f.). While all three were winners, none would duplicate their sister’s success.
Sofala, stabled with Schreiber’s string in Northern California, debuted in a three furlong allowance at the newly constructed Tanforan on January 6, defeating the Masetto colt Rathgar by four lengths over a slow track.
She would quickly return to competition, defeating the Red Iron filly Lillie Diggs by three lengths in a three furlong dash on January 13, and then best the Fitz James colt Sig Levy by a head in another three furlong dash on January 15. She would bear out in the stretch in the win against Sig Levy, this was later attributed to “mouth trouble.”
Despite being undefeated in three starts, Sofala’s next start came in a three furlong selling race at Tanforan on January 19. Defeating old maiden foe Rathgar by two lengths, her final time of :35 ½ was not only a new track record, but a new world record for 2-year-olds at the distance.
Leaving the confines of Tanforan for nearby Oakland, Sofala would suffer the first loss of her career in a 3 ½ furlong allowance on January 25, finishing second by a half-length to the Duncombe (GB) gelding Dunfree. Five days later, the two would face off again at Oakland in a 3 ½ furlong allowance on January 30, with Sofala this time turning the tables on her conqueror, registering a two length win over Dunfree.
Returning to Tanforan, Sofala would suffer the second loss of her brief career in a 3 ½ furlong allowance on February 12, finishing second to the Bassetlaw (GB) gelding M. F. Tarpey by two lengths.
“The filly is believed to have been a trifle short when M. F. Tarpey beat her, due to the fact that she had just recovered from a slight cold which forced her trainer to let up on her for two weeks.” (Daily Racing Form, 03/07/1900)
Her next start at Tanforan on February 24 would mark a successful step up in distance to four furlongs. Once again turning the tables on her conqueror, Sofala would defeat M. F. Tarpey by four lengths in a track record setting time of :48.
She would return to Oakland three days later, defeating the Mariner (AUS) colt Count Hubert by two lengths in a four furlong allowance on February 27.
Remaining at Oakland for the month of March, Sofala would register a five length win over the Buckmaster filly Lucidia in a 4 ½ furlong allowance on March 1 and score a two length win in heavy going over the St. Andrew (GB) gelding Andrattus in a four furlong allowance on March 10.
“Sofala’s half mile in 50 ¼ seconds with 118 pounds up, over a heavy track at Oakland last Saturday stamps the Balgowan filly as one of the greatest racing machines of her age ever seen on the American turf. She handled her big impost like the stake filly that she undoubtedly is, and spread-eagled her field, winning under all kinds of wraps from Andrattus and Intrada, both of whom were in receipt of big weight. Andrattus and Intrada were returned winners in their previous starts.” (Daily Racing Form, 03/16/1900)
Sofala would end the month with a five length win over the Crescendo colt Impromptu (aka Impeto) in a 4 ½ furlong allowance at Oakland on March 31.
“Sofala’s victory on Saturday makes her tenth one in twelve starts, and the little miss enjoys the honor of being the only two-year-old in history that has ever won ten races before the first of April. She won with 120 pounds up, as easily as she won with 112 at the opening of the season. … Sofala will be shipped east in about ten days. Sofala comes from the great Gallopade family, whence comes Prioress, winner of the Czarewitch of 1857, and Starke, the only American horse that ever won the Goodwood cup.” (Los Angeles Times, 04/02/1900)
Running against a strong wind and a 125 lb. impost, Sofala would take the Gebhard Stakes over Oakland’s Futurity course (170 ft. less than 6 furlongs) on April 7 by two lengths over old rival Dunfree. Chart notes from the race proclaimed that Sofala “is probably the greatest filly ever seen in California.”
“When Barney Schreiber’s crack piece of racing bric-a-brac, Sofala, started for the Gebhard it was with many misgivings on the part of Felix Carr and Dick Williams, Barney’s two trainers. Felix had a dread of the “hoodoo” thirteenth start, while Dick said Schreiber ought to be arrested for starting a young two-year-old with all that weight up. Barney himself was like a nervous “scrapper” waiting for the gong. He finally consulted Judge Joe Murphy, who probably told the St. Louis man she would strike just as hard game in an ordinary purse race. If it didn’t help her it certainly did not hurt the filly’s selling price any.” (San Francisco Call, 04/14/1900)
“And besides all that, Barney has a filly that sets one wondering. There are two propositions about Sofala. Either she is an equine wonder or there are no good 2-year-olds at San Francisco. She has shown that nothing there can be classed with her. She is Miss Woodford, Firenzi, Thora, Yo Tambien, and Imp all in one so far as the Pacific coast is concerned, and we must wait till she comes East and tackles the now unknown quantities here before we can properly gauge her.
But, leaving her repeated victories out of the question, she is still a thing to be wondered at for the nerve she has shown. Young as she is and of a sex that is rarely hardy, she has already run and won more races than are indulged in by many first-class horses. English trainers say that no stake horse should be asked to go to the post more than ten times in a season, yet here is a 2-year-old filly that has passed that limit in the first three months of the year, and the real season of her racing is not yet upon her.
She is entered in the stakes about here and will start if fit, and it will be an interesting thing to watch her career throughout the summer after the grueling that she has had since the 1st of January at San Francisco. Schreiber’s winning at the coast tracks amount to $20,000, Bannockburn, Sofala, and Forte being mainly responsible for the golden harvest.” (Charles E. Trevathan / Chicago Daily Tribune, 04/08/1900)
“Sofala holds the world’s record, so far as early racing goes. No other two-year-old in the world has ever won eleven races before the 1st of July, let alone the 10th of April.” (“Hidalgo” / Los Angeles Times, 04/09/1900)
Returning to Tanforan for the first time since late February, Sofala then took the Western Stakes (5f) on April 14 by a length over the Rousseau gelding Diderot.
“She has shown enormous speed, the ability to carry high weights with ease and has found any route she has been asked to traverse easily within the compass of her power. What more could an owner desire? Barney Schreiber facetiously writes that she is “rotten,” but she is as the apple of his eye.” (Daily Racing Form, 04/18/1900)
Through April 14, Sofala had earned a remarkable twelve wins and two seconds in fourteen starts, and the comparisons between the filly and Golden Rule, the great California 2-year-old of the previous year, begun to grow.
“Barney Schreiber’s two-year-old filly Sofala will be sent East from San Francisco to Chicago, and she may possibly come to the metropolitan tracks. The filly has won twelve out of the fourteen races in which she has started, and her owner things her the best two-year-old of the year. There have been other fillies like Sofala that were thought to be the best of their years – May Hempstead, for instance – and when they were called upon to meet fair two-year-olds in the middle of the season they were found wanting. Sofala has been raced so much so early in her career that she is bound to suffer from it. May Hempstead was just such a filly, and received the same sort of treatment, with the result that she was practically worthless last season.” (The New York Times, 05/02/1900)
Sofala and the rest of the Schreiber string arrive in St. Louis on May 15.
“The phenomenal success of Barney Schreiber’s great two-year-old filly, Sofala, who was bred in St. Louis county, has been the biggest kind of an advertisement for Missouri. She is beyond a doubt one of the best youngsters ever bred in this country, and the fact that she comes from Missouri proves conclusively that this state is capable of producing just as good race horses as Kentucky or Tennessee.” (Daily Racing Form, 05/16/1900)
While entered in a highly anticipated race against the Russell filly Miss Bennett – the “western” phenom with four wins, two track records, and another track record equaled in five starts at Little Rock (Clinton Park) and Memphis (Montgomery Park) – in the Debutante Stakes (4.5f) at St. Louis on May 19, Sofala would scratch out of the race, with Schreiber citing both poor physical condition following her journey and the toll heavy rains had on the track’s condition.
With the Debutante field then reduced to three, Miss Bennett would take the Debutante by six lengths over the Loyalist (GB) filly Clorita.
“Barney Schreiber did not start Sofala in the Debutante stakes at St. Louis and said before the race: “My filly has not been right since her long journey across the Rocky Mountains. She has been off her feed, and I have been compelled to borrow some California hay from Captain Hackett, owner of Yellow Tail, and mix it with our Missouri hay to induce her to eat. It will be an impossibility to get her ready for Saturday’s race, and it would be an injustice to her, myself, the association and the public to think of starting her. She will be ready later on, and when she does start, I want the public as well as myself to think that she is fit to win.” (Daily Racing Form, 05/20/1900)
Sofala would again be scratched from a 4 ½ furlong allowance at Harlem on June 9, with this time Schreiber citing the nine horse field size as a disadvantage.
“The reason I did not start Sofala Saturday is that the field appeared a little large for her,” said Barney Schreiber. “The filly is a nervous animal, and although she was fit for a race, I concluded that nothing would be gained had she run. I would like to have it made public that her nervousness alone was the cause of her being scratched.”” (Daily Racing Form, 06/10/1900)
Despite his stated reason for the scratch, Sofala was experienced with larger fields, as three of her twelve wins back in California had come in nine horse fields. She also had a second place finish in a twelve horse field.
After much delay, Sofala’s first start outside of California would ultimately occur in a 4 ½ furlong allowance at Washington Park on June 23. Finishing third by about five lengths to the Faraday colt Criterion and the Hindoo colt Alard Scheck, it would be the worst performance of her young career.
Remaining at Washington Park, Sofala would finally meet up with Miss Bennett in the Lakeside Stakes (5f) on June 26. The highly anticipated race would not live up to the hype, as Sofala would finish sixth in the nine horse field, well behind winner Miss Bennett, who would defeat Esher (GB) filly Lady Schorr by two lengths.
“Barney Schreiber refused to be consoled last night over the poor showing made by Sofala. He says he does not want to do Caywood any injustice, but cannot believe the filly ran anything like her race. Caywood, he says, failed to follow his instructions to keep at work on Sofala, who is inclined to loaf. “I know that Sofala can beat all those horses,” exclaimed Schreiber, “and will bet she can if they ever meet again.”” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 06/27/1900)
“Sofala finished fifth after having shown no speed. The California filly is undoubtedly far short of her far Western form. Saturday’s race, instead of helping her, probably hurt her. Owner Schreiber was exasperated at her performance and seemed to blame Caywood. He even declared he was willing to bet $5,000 that his filly could defeat Miss Bennett.” (Chicago Daily Tribune, 06/27/1900)
Returning to St. Louis, Sofala would finish last of seven in the Turf Congress Handicap (6f) on June 30, well behind winner Lady Shorr, who would defeat the Charade colt Ampere by five lengths in the heavy going.
“They tell me she acted badly before the race. She cut up while being saddled in the paddock, and Jockey Ruiz says she gave starter Bruce some trouble at the post. This satisfies me that the filly was not right, for she never before acted sour or mean. I shipped her from Chicago to St. Louis the night before the races, and I guess the trip didn’t do her any good.” (Barney Schreiber as quoted in the St. Louis Republic, 07/02/1900)
In early July, Barney Schreiber is barred from Washington Park as a result of the “inconsistency” of his horses Fly By Night and In Shot.
Prior to his arrival at Washington Park, Fly By Night had run a number of unremarkable races at Harlem and Hawthorne. In his first start at Washington Park, Fly By Night would finish up the track in a 1 ⅛ mile race, despite going off as the betting favorite. However, two days later he would win the Oakwood Handicap (1 ⅛ mi.) handily at odds of 7-1. That same day, the 2-year-old filly In Shot would also display a reversal in form when winning at high odds.
The stewards at Washington Park ultimately ruled that Schreiber’s suspension was to run only through the rest of the track’s race meeting, which was to conclude at the end of the month.
The events at Washington Park were not the first time Schreiber horses had come under scrutiny in recent months. In November 1899, trainer Dick Williams was suspended alongside jockey Jack Ward by decision of the California Jockey Club due to the strange reversal of form of Schreiber’s horses Aluminum and Forte during the Oakland meeting. The stewards recommended revocation of the two’s licenses; however, Williams’ license was later reinstated.
Sitting on the sidelines for the month of July, the next (and what would ultimately be the final) start of Sofala’s career came in a 5 ½ furlong allowance at Saratoga on August 2. After being “practically left at the post,” she would finish last in the eight horse field, with the Luke Blackburn colt Luke Ward defeating the Belvidere colt Bellario by one length for the win.
Following her poor performance at Saratoga in August, Sofala was sent to Schreiber’s Woodlands for a rest. On the morning of October 25, she was turned out in company with the 3-year-old St. George (GB) filly Nance O’Neil, “a worthless race horse that Mr. Schreiber has been trying to sell all season.” Shortly after the two fillies were turned out, a kick from Nance O’Neil rendered Sofala “badly crippled.” Tetanus would soon set in, and despite receiving all care available, Sofala would pass away in agony during the evening of October 28.
Despite his prior feelings towards Nance O’Neil, Schreiber would ultimately not rid himself of the filly following the accident, instead breeding her to Balgowan in the spring of 1901. He would retain the mare for the rest of her life.
Nance O’Neil would produce at least five foals for Schreiber, the most notable being the continent trekking Balgowan filly Tavora (1903), who would race for eight years, retiring in 1912 with a record of (152) 26-19-12 and $8,790 in earnings. In late November 1911, Schreiber would disperse his bloodstock in a sale at Mexico City, where upon arrival at the sales grounds from Missouri, the 14-year-old Nance O’Neil (in foal to Sain (GB)) would drop dead unexpectedly in the sales paddock.