Ribot was the ultimate masterpiece of the unmatched breeder and trainer Federico Tesio. Born in 1952 through 13 sires and mares who were also bred or owned by Tesio himself, Ribot was in fact his crowning achievement even though the great horseman did not live long enough to witness the fruits of his labor. Ribot’s sire Tenerani, grandsire Bellini and great grandsire Cavaliere d’Arpino were all bred by Tesio, who was a firm believer of home bred stallions as opposed to imported sires. This thinking by Tesio produced one of the greatest thoroughbreds in history, it did in fact produce the “Horse of the Century.”
Ribot was a non-descript small unimpressive young horse but he was known as gentle and very easy to handle. He was not an overbearing horse and remained perfectly healthy and happy other than once contracting a light cold and a contusion on his fetlock joint that he inflicted upon himself. He was fond of naps after eating and his works. He was known as calm and had nerves of steel. These characteristics served him well, as he kept that demeanor while in the gate or while traveling. The “little horse” impressed Tesio early on and he knew he had something very special. Unfortunately, the great breeder died on May 1st, shy two months of Ribot’s magnificent debut. Later on, it was written that Ribot developed a meaner disposition, however many have gone on to claim that it simply was not true and that throughout his career, Ribot remained a very intelligent, calm yet forceful individual who felt it was his right to be ahead of the pack down the stretch.
Ribot’s racing career began on July 4th, 1954 in Milan Italy going a short 5f and winning by one length. This was the first success in what would eventually become one of the greatest careers ever seen in Thoroughbred racing. At two years old, Ribot was entered into 3 races and won them all.
At three years old, he was entered into 6 races in Italy and France (7.5f, 10f, 11f, and 12f) and won all 6 of them by margins of 10 to 15 lengths each.
In 1956, at four years old, Ribot was entered into 7 races including Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at 12f and the Gran Premio di Milano in Milan at 15f. He beat every opponent in every race by margins ranging from 4 lengths to 12 lengths.
Ribot’s resume, 16 wins from 16 starts, from 5 furlongs to 15 furlongs, is unparalleled and remarkable. The ability to conquer this wide range of distance with dominating performances is a testament to the superiority of this Champion Horse of the Century. His excellence on the track over his 3 year career continued on in the breeders shed as Ribot had the ability to stamp his own characteristics on his offspring. Despite being a small young unimpressive horse, Ribot eventually grew into his shoes, however he had a tendency to produce smaller type horses. And sometimes with soundness issues which may have not been the result of Ribot's blood in so much as being the result of the handlers.
In 1957, Ribot began his stud duties at Lord Derby’s Woodland Stud in Newmarket and at the end of the season he was sent back home to Dormello in Italy where he was originally born. In 1960, Ribot was sent to America under a 5 year lease which then changed to another 5 years and eventually changing again to remain forever. This was a major loss to European breeding and quite possibly a huge blunder for his American offspring in that just like Ribot himself, who needed time to mature and rest, American trainers were not as patient with these 2 year olds and generally pushed them too hard and too fast. Only a few were trained in the “Ribot way” and became champions. The differences between Ribot’s sons born in America versus those born across the ocean are vast and is directly correlated to the differences in training between the two continents. The successes and accomplishments of the European trained Ribot offspring far outweigh those born in USA. The exportation of Ribot to the United States was a great loss to Europe and was not a huge win for America. Training practices affected the outcome here, however, Ribot’s champion blood remains. His ability to pass traits to his progeny and further descendants still remain and those trainers who properly handle them will reap the benefits no matter which generation they arrive.
Among Ribot’s accomplished offspring American champions are Tom Rolfe who posted 16 wins including the Preakness, The Arlington Classic and the Citation, among others, and became a celebrated sire himself. Dapper Dan who posted 6 wins and seconds in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Gotham. Arts and Letters posted 11 wins including the Bluegrass, the Met, the Belmont Stakes, Jim Dandy, Travers, Woodward and the Jockey Club among others and seconds in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
The list of Ribot’s overseas Champions is vast including many winners of the Prix de l’arc de Triomphe, the Gran Premio, King George & Queen Elizabeth, St. Leger, Newmarket, Royal George, etc. Too vast to list all.
One of our more famous sons of Ribot is the great Graustark who was so impressive so young that he was looked at as the new Man O’War. Graustark was unbeaten at two, posting 3 wins out of 3 races. At three years old he ran in 4 races and it was after coming in second in the Bluegrass Stakes it was revealed that he had a broken coffin bone. His full brother His Majesty also broke down with a fracture. Unfortunately the revelations that Ribot’s offspring generally needed substantial intervals between races was not something that our trainers heeded. Graustark still carried the magnificent Ribot genes and eventually became a strong conduit himself including offspring Key to the Mint, Jim French, Groshawk, Ruritania, among many others.
The offspring of Ribot, both here and abroad, are still passing the "Ribot genes" through many generations. The impact of the Horse of the Century still continues to grace us with its influence. The key to success with any of these offspring is in the early training and a keen insight into the soundness of the horse. They do not want to be pushed, they want time, they crave rest. Those from the past knew all too well about the power of Ribot in the breeders shed. It is a well-known secret that nefarious talk that Ribot had become very dangerous and unruly and therefore too risky to try to return him back to Italy was nothing but a bunch of nonsense. They simply could not part with this giant and so he remained at the Darby Dan Farm until he died in 1972.
The presence of Ribot, one of the most influential Chefs among the coveted group, within any chart, in any generation, especially when positioned at the bottom of the chart, is a sign of major potential. His offering as a chef passes average winning distances down in the Classic and Professional categories. Once Ribot's name is located, the key to the colt's success lies directly with a patient and caring trainer who understands exactly what he might have in his possession and how he must be dealt with. He must try to follow the ways of a European trainer to draw out the best qualities of this potential Champion. Many great runners of today, all graded stakes winners who have the presence of Ribot had a strong potential from the onset if handled in the correct manner. If viewed the way the colt should be viewed, as royally bred with such magnificent champion blood, the reverence should follow as consistently as it it overseas. Therein lies the key.
A century lasts 100 years, which means we still have until 2052 to reap the benefits of one of the greatest horses of all time. Most likely, Ribot will be the horse of two centuries after all is said and done.