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