RDO - Razza Dormello Olgiata

In his farewell speech to the Thoroughbred Breeders Association in Newmarket, in July of 1964, speaking of Federico Tesio, Lord Rosebery said: "Nobody in this century, has most influenced the breeding of thoroughbreds, than him and Lord Derby."

The magnitude of success in Britain from three stallions bred by Tesio - Donatello II, Nearco and Ribot - can be demonstrated more clearly by comparing it with that of three other top class stallions - Pharos, Fairway and Hyperion - bred and owned by Lord Derby, the UK's most successful breeder in the first half of the twentieth century.

NIn fifty-three seasons ranging from 1944, when the daughter of Donatello II, Picture Play, won the One Thousand Guineas, to 1996, the children and descendants in the male line of the Tesio three stallions have won 120 of 265 editions of classic British trials , ie 45.28% of these, 98 (ie 36.98%) were won by children or descendants in the male line by Nearco alone.

By contrast, in the fifty seasons spent since 1931, when the son of Pharos, Cameronian, won the Two Thousand Guineas and Derby, 1983, the children and descendants in the male line of the three stallions Lord Derby have won 59 of the 265 editions classical races of the same, ie 22.26%. *

Scetch of MIdR and Jockey at the Gold Cup at Ascot

Tesio and the Tesio-Incisa Partnership

After finishing his studies at the Royal College in Moncalieri, in Piedmont, the young Tesio was given the inheritance left him by his parents, and with it departed for a world tour that would last six years.

He often spoke of his visit to China and said he had mounted in the Derby in Beijing. Sometimes he told of his trip through Patagonia, crossing land never explored before, to visit his teacher, Father Francesco Denza, an astronomer.

Upon his return he married Lydia Flori di Serramezzana, and in 1896 invested all his money in an estate. Dormello, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, was selected for its temperate climate.

Positive results arrived quickly. He won his first Italian Derby in 1911 with Guido Reni, after finishing third in 1904, and second in 1909. Between 1904 and 1966, he and his studfarm, which was later to be called Razza Dormello-Olgiata, won 24 Italian Derbies, coming second 14 times and 8 times third. A record which is still unbeaten.

In 1932 he teamed up with Mario Incisa della Rocchetta, and his wife Clarice. The horses that were previously under the name of Tesio, now ran as Tesio-Incisa, and subsequently would run under the colors of the Razza Dormello-Olgiata, named after the two estates owned by Tesio and Incisa.

The first major success was the victory of Nearco in the Grand Prix de Paris in 1938. The horse never returned to Dormello nor to Italy for that matter. It was sold for 60,000 pounds, a record for that time, to an English broker. Tenerani in 1948 won both the Queen Elizabeth Stakes and the Goodwood Cup, while Botticelli in 1955 won the Gold Cup at Ascot.

Caricature “The Birth of Botticelli“,
after the victory of the Gold Cup at Ascot in 1955

Ribot - the Horse of the Twentieth Century

Federico Tesio died on May 1st 1954. He never saw what many consider the horse of the twentieth century.

"My goal" Tesio wrote of his debut in 1899, "is to breed a racehorse that, over any distance, is able to carry more weight in the shortest possible time."

Ribot was definitely the horse that came closest to Tesio’s ideal. Unbeaten in 16 races, Ribot not only won the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, but also the Arc de Triomphe twice.

On July 26th 1999, Tony Morris wrote an article on the biggest winners of the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes in the Racing Post, an English paper, in which he said:

"The field of starters of the Arc de Triomphe in 1956 was considered the strongest so far. Among the challengers to Ribot there were the best horses coming from England, France, Ireland and America.

But for all that talent brought against him there was no chance.

Ribot pulverized his rivals in the straight, leaving them on the spot like a bullet from a rifle. In a flash, he won by six lengths from the best English three year old, Talgo, which had won the Irish Derby with the same distance from the second. Many that day had the impression of having seen the horse of the century. With that victory, Ribot had become the yardstick against which others were measured. No other winner of the King George has done the same."

Cover of DER SPIEGEL (27. 1. 1957)
“Surprise Victory.
Italian's Miraculous Stallion Ribot“

His fame continues to surprise. In a survey of "La Gazzetta dello Sport," Ribot came in fourth place as " Italian athlete" of the century, beating famous sportsmen like Alberto Tomba and Roberto Baggio.

After the death of Federico Tesio, the Razza Dormello-Olgiata went on to win under the guidance of Mario Incisa della Rocchetta. Later in the book "The Tesios, as I knew them" Incisa described the years of contact with the "Wizard of Dormello".

In 1962, John Hislop, owner and breeder of world champion Brigadier Gerard, in the preface to a book on Razza Dormello-Olgiata, wrote:

"When those of my generation will be asked by their grandchildren:

‘Who was the largest breeder, stallion most representative and best racehorse of your time?’, the answer is probably: ‘Tesio, Nearco, Ribot’.”

Over forty years after the probability became a certainty. **



Peter Willett *, Federico Tesio A great Italian breeder and owner, Marsilio Publishers spa, Venezia1997, p.215.

** J. Hislop, Preface, in Dormello-Olgiata, Derby, Milan 1962, p.3

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