El moro Arr. en tango
El pangaré Estilo
Rafael Flores

Horses, tangos, travels

acing horses meant for Gardel a matter of peculiar interest. Similarly, the other horses, the «companions» we should say, because in the farming, cattle, prosperous country which then Argentina was, the «equestrian condition» occupied a place of privilege in the people’s minds. For a gaucho, to walk or being on foot was one of the worst disgraces. When one of the last gaucho caudillos, Chacho Peñaloza, was asked about his exile he answered: «And what do you think? I’m in Chile and on foot».

The poetic art of the payadores, either with its oral transmission or its written counterpart, tell us about a culture carried out on horseback, either on the mountains or in the plains. The early and most widely known songs sung by Gardel included numbers related with special horses. Pay attention to “El moro” and “El pangaré”, recorded in 1917. In Argentina the history of horse riders was honored then it was natural that Gardel would join gaucho coteries in his early days. However, the urban configuration that left a mark in the development of the country as a modern nation impressed its nuances on it.

The campestral rites became urbane in the racecourses attended by high and middle class Argentines who enjoyed the view of horse races and the thrill of betting.

Of the numerous episodes documented by anecdotes, memoirs, letters and books, let us remember the one that took place on November 16, 1918. The Gardel-Razzano duo was in General Pico (La Pampa) appearing alongside the tango orchestra led by Roberto Firpo who was responsible for the whole cast. Gardel and Razzano, besides singing, were fond of humorous jokes and willing to engage in sprees. Among the pranks poor Firpo had to stand was the escape of the duo in the middle of night. After a long trip on train they arrived at the end of a race which included two famous horses, Botafogo and Grey Fox. The following day Firpo had to apologize for the absence of the duo, among the laughs of his partners on the tour, before the audience and the impresarios.

Time passed and the visits to the racetracks were frequent. Every Sunday, says a tango. In 1925 Gardel had the possibility of acquiring his own racing horse, Lunático, but not a stable where to keep it. He used the one his all-time friend, Francisco Maschio owned. The horse was a pure sang with a good genealogy. But in spite of the tenderness and the fame of its owner its performance was mediocre. After its stage in the racetrack it was taken to a farm in the province of Santa Fe. There it became a stallion until 1933 when, by will of its owner, was carried to the open field to end its days in freedom. Later Carlos Gardel bought more racing horses, six in total. His luck was varied and his passion underwent highs and lows. Gardel used to bet by means of telegrams sent to his proxy in Buenos Aires but he as well attended the racecourses of Montevideo, Paris and New York while he was on tour.

At that time of the golden era of racetracks in Argentina the most renowned jockey was Ireneo Leguisamo, El Mono (The Monkey), one of Gardel’s greatest friends. While in Nice, Gardel invited him to a journey along the Cote Azure, to its beaches, hotels and the most elegant fashionable salons of Europe. There are a great number of tangos with stories about horses and races; maybe the best known and with highest quality is “Leguisamo solo” that Gardel sang and recorded in Barcelona in 1926 and later in Buenos Aires in 1927. In the memoirs of the jockey, compiled by Daniel Alfonso Luro, Leguisamo de punta a punta, there are spicy references to his friendship with Carlos Gardel. Despite his growing show business activity that forced him to live for months and years abroad far from Argentina his interest for turf did not decline. In 1934 in a letter from New York to his proxy he says:

«Dear Armando, tomorrow I’ll send a money order. Bet five hundred tickets in halves; fix expenses, either it wins or loses, telegraph soon, happy. Regards to Francisco and Mono. Best wishes. Do your best.»

Furthermore, surely afflicted by the losses and deceptions, in a later letter from Bogotá, dated June 20, 1935 he told Defino:

«When I get to New York I’ll send you the full plentiful parcel. Place that money I got with great effort and pirouettes in the space; As for the horses it’s OK that you get rid of them, they have to find their way on their own, I already did enough for horses».

Published in Carlos Gardel. La voz del tango, by Rafael Flores, Alianza Editorial.