TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
New   |   Texas Towns   |   Ghost Towns   |   Counties   |   Trips   |   Features   |   Columns   |   Architecture   |   Images   |   Archives   |   Site Map


Books by
Clay Coppedge

Order from claycoppedge.com
for autographed copy:
Texas | Columns | "Letters from Central Texas"

Pan Zareta:
Queen of the Turf

by Clay Coppedge
Pan Zareta, the greatest filly in horse racing history, was what horse racing buffs would call a safe bet, especially if the bet was for her to win. Pegged by the New York Times as the "Queen of the Turf" and also known affectionately as the "Texas Whirlwind" and "Panzy," Pan Zareta set records at race tracks in three countries over the course of six years. Of the 151 races she started, Pan Zareta finished either first, second or third 128 times, including 76 first place finishes.

Pan Zareta was foaled in Texas, in 1910 by breeder J.F. (Jim) and H.S. Newman in Sweetwater. Sired by Abe Frank and dame Caddi Griffith, she became another in a long line of famous Texas horses that includes Steel Dust, progenitor of the modern quarter horse, and Assault, the crippled King Ranch stallion that went on to win horse racing's Triple Crown in 1946.
Pan Zareta
Pan Zareta

Pan Zareta was named for the daughter of the former mayor of Juarez, Pansy Zareta, whose father was a Newman family friend. The playful, friendly chestnut filly's first race was in Juarez in January of 1912, during the Mexican revolution. In order to protect their racing interests, the Newmans reportedly delivered a fine thoroughbred stallion to Pancho Villa, who is said to have ridden it during most of his ill-fated campaign.

Pan Zareta fared much better than Villa in the following years. She won that first race and a dozen more as a two-year old, finishing first in 13 of her first 19 starts, including 10 in a row. Horse racing in America was at a low ebb during Pan Zareta's heyday, victimized by an anti-gambling sentiment that saw horse racing outlawed all over the country in the early part of the 20th Century. Had the stakes been higher, the high-spirited filly might have made the Newman's wealthy but her winnings averaged about $300 per race.

Betting on the ponies remained illegal in Texas until 1933 - and was banned again in 1937, this time for 50 years - but Pan Zareta took her act on the road, winning more often than not, and winning 46 of 100 handicap races, an astonishing number that still hasn't been equaled. In a handicap race, each horse is assigned a handicap in the form of a specified amount of weight the horse must carry, the handicap being based on the horse's ability.

Pan Zareta carried a lot of weight. She carried more than 131 pounds in 14 races and once won while carrying 146 pounds. Even in her best-known race, against the highly-regard thoroughbred stallion Joe Blair, Pan Zareta carried a considerable ten pounds more than her competitor. It's worth noting that in that race, Pan Zareta was ridden by jockey Johnny Loffus, who would go on to ride horse racing's first Triple Crown winner, Sir Barton, and the legendary Man O' War in 1919.

One reason we don't hear as much today of Pan Zareta as we might expect, given her singular accomplishments, is because she failed to produce any offspring. Historian Robert Moorman Denhardt noted that had Pan Zareta bred like she ran she would have had a chapter in his book, "Quarter Horses: A Story of Two Centuries" She might have stepped out of the history books but Pan Zareta stepped back on the race track and continued her winning ways right up to the end.

Reporting on Pan Zareta's last victory, in 1917, the New York Times reported, "In one respect, the latest achievement of the aged daughter of Abe Frank was unique, as she carried the crushing impost of 140 pounds, which so far as veterans of the turf are aware has never been done successfully by any other mare...The talent did not believe that Pan Zareta was equal to the great task asked of her by the handicapper, and she was second choice in the betting."

Pan Zareta died of pneumonia in 1918 while in training at the Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, the site of many of her victories. According to the New Orleans Times Picayune, she was "buried beneath a giant live oak…just inside the inner rail at the sixteenth post." Ten years later another famous race horse, Black Gold was buried beside her.

In 1966, the Pan Zareta Sweepstakes was established in her honor at the Fair Grounds Race Course and continues to this day. She was inducted in the Fair Ground's Racing Hall of Fame in New Orleans, the National Museum Racing's Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York and in the Texas Race Horse Hall of Fame at Retama Park in San Antonio.

She is immortalized in a poem by Wayne Heath Porter that concludes:

True sports of yore, and champs galore will all
be there to greet her;
The Gangling mare, with the chestnut hair,
they called her - Pan Zareta.

© Clay Coppedge
"Letters from Central Texas" February 16, 2018 column

Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • Trammel's Trace 2-3-18
  • Milt Hinkle, the South America Kid and aerial bulldogger 1-13-18
  • Mackenzie Trail 1-2-18
  • Chasing Villa 12-16-17
  • Art Deco on the Plains 12-1-17

    See more »

  • Related Topics:

    More Columns | People | Texas History
    Clay Coppedge's "Letters from Central Texas"

  • Trammel's Trace 2-3-18
  • Milt Hinkle, the South America Kid and aerial bulldogger 1-13-18
  • Mackenzie Trail 1-2-18
  • Chasing Villa 12-16-17
  • Art Deco on the Plains 12-1-17

    See more »









    Texas Escapes Online Magazine »   Archive Issues » Go to Home Page »
    Texas Counties
    Texas Towns A-Z
    Texas Ghost Towns

    Central Texas North
    Central Texas South
    Texas Gulf Coast
    Texas Panhandle
    Texas Hill Country
    East Texas
    South Texas
    West Texas

    Rooms with a Past

    Gas Stations
    Post Offices
    Water Towers
    Grain Elevators

    Vintage Photos
    Historic Trees
    Old Neon
    Ghost Signs
    Pitted Dates
    Then & Now

    Columns: History/Opinion
    Texas History
    Small Town Sagas
    Black History
    Texas Centennial

    Texas Railroads

    Texas Trips
    Texas Drives
    Texas State Parks
    Texas Rivers
    Texas Lakes
    Texas Forts
    Texas Trails
    Texas Maps

    Site Map
    About Us
    Privacy Statement
    Contact Us

    Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved