Friday, May 30, 2014

Franco Varola: Some Observations of Federico Tesio And His Famous Horses

© 2014 Calvin L. Carter. All rights reserved.
          Anyone who’s followed my blog for any length of time knows that my study of the late Federico Tesio, a world-renowned owner, breeder and trainer of Thoroughbred racehorses, and Franco Varola, a contemporary of Tesio and an equally-renowned writer, author and developer of the Dosage theory, has had a tremendous impact on how I determine if a young horse has star potential. I’ve written numerous blogs about Signors Varola and Tesio. Both were geniuses in the respective fields.
During his lifetime, Tesio bred an incredible 22 Italiano Derby winners. Varola’s Dosage system, not the one commonly used today, consisted of five “aptitudinal” groups, and Varola was most interested in the behavioral traits and characteristics that each sire transmitted to his offspring.
Varola, also, wrote several articles, during his lifetime, about Tesio and his book, The Tesio Myth, published in 1984 by J. A. Allen & Company Limited, is an excellent read for the student of pedigrees and breeding methods.
Recently, I had the pleasure to read a Varola article about Tesio which was published in the November, 1958, edition of The British Racehorse. The title: Some Famous Tesio Horses, Notes on his opinions and system of breeding is an excellent article and I thought I’d pass along some excerpts about two of Tesio’s best horses – Cavalier D’Arpino and Ribot. The Cavalier was the great grandsire of Ribot:

During sixty-two years as master of Dormello and breeder/owner/trainer, the late Federico Tesio probably handled more good horses than any other professional in the history of the turf. A Dormello crop seldom, if ever, exceeded twenty foals, and of these only a minority remained for a long time in Tesio’s hands, either as racehorses or as stallions and broodmares. The number of those who have left a mark on Italian and world breeding at large, is, nonetheless so high as to justify an examination of the best among them, and even of some who have remained less known in Italy and abroad. …

In Tesio’s own opinion, the best horse he ever bred was Cavalier D’Arpino. …

The Cavalier’s dam, Chuette, was quite a good mare whom Tesio had bought in England, and she was by Cicero out of Chute by Carbine. Her success at stud in Italy had been out of all proportion to her purchase price. …

The Cavalier was not a good-looking horse, and he had not got the best of limbs. As a matter of fact, he was a bit course, somewhat barrel-chested, and, all considered, far from representing a model equine build. As a two year old, he could not be trained successfully, and as a three year old he was only seen once in public, when cantering away with a minor race over the straight course at San Siro. …

It was the frequent practice of Federico Tesio not to hurry with backward colts, and concentrate exclusively on those who could be depended upon for the classic races; a wise practice when the five classics, in Italy as well as in other countries, were still the most valuable races that could be won, having not yet lost much of their prestige to the weight for age races. …

It was only as a four year old that the Cavalier gave a full measure of his racing potential. …
There was in the Cavalier a supreme detachment from the horses and things around him, which made him a unique horse and justified Tesio’s opinion of him. His physical possibilities were tremendous, and there was never another horse who could get near him, for his stride was overwhelming, and his behavior was more of a machine than an animal. In a sense, he was not even brilliant, for his style of running suggested nothing but coldness and composure. Under the circumstances, all his jockey had to do was just sit in the saddle, for there could be no question of having to warm him up, or to submit him to any particular tactics. …

After this redoubtable trial, the Cavalier was trained on with a view to follow the path of [the Italian-bred] Ortello and capture the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, and it is quite possible that, had he stood further training, he might have anticipated the feat of Ribot by twenty-five years [Ribot won the 1955 and 1956 Arc]; but, as things went, he turned up lame and had to be retired even before going to Paris. He can be considered much in the same class as his great-grandson Ribot, for both had outstanding physical means and an ideal racing temperament. Ribot, however, is free from the unsoundness which afflicted the Cavalier, and which was transmitted to a number of his descendents.

Cavalier D’Arpino was undefeated in six starts and his great-grandson, Ribot, was undefeated in 16 starts. Unfortunately, Tesio died in 1954 and he never got to see Ribot race.
Indeed, the above magazine excerpts are a small illustration of the depth of knowledge of Franco Varola and Federico Tesio. Both had a keen understanding of Thoroughbreds, their pedigrees, conformation and behavior, which is sorely lacking in most modern-day breeding. Two quotes that aptly illustrate their knowledge of the Thoroughbred come from Varola and Maria Incisa della Rochetta who was Tesio’s business partner for 20 years.
In Typology of the Racehorse (J. A. Allen & Company Limited, 1974), Varola noted:

The differences between the five aptitudinal groups are of essence or character. It matters very little whether a racehorse is 16 hands or 16.2, or whether it is chestnut or brown; but it does matter a lot the way he behaves in actual racing, whether he is consistent or erratic, brilliant or slow, bellicose or resigned, in other words which pattern or mode of being is he expressing...It is of great utility to be able to distinguish between these various aptitudes, this being something that plays an effective part in mating.

In his book, The Tesios, As I Knew Them, published by J. A. Allen & Company Limited, 1979, Rochetta wrote:

We used to play a game at Dormello. Tesio, Donna Lydia [Tesio’s wife], my wife and I would each select our choice from the current crop of yearlings. The names would be put in a sealed envelope to be opened a couple of years later. When this happened, Tesio’s intuition was apparent, although it would have been impossible to define the basis on which he had made his choice, for it was certainly not based on conformation. Eventually I became convinced that Tesio had the knack to see into the horse’s “morale.”

Thank you, Signors Varola, Tesio.


  1. Good Job! I enjoyed enough reading your latest article to read it again and again! It was so helpful. Waiting for your next entry.

    Thoroughbred Analytics

  2. Dear Sir
    Varola has nothing to invent, jute write.
    Heads of breeds they were created 50 years before by
    The Vuillier Colonel who worked for the Aga Khan 3 to buy
    Lady Josephine
    it gives birth to, among other. Mumtaz mahal, Nasrullah, Mahmoud,
    Bahram, Alibhai, Gallant Man Khaled Sheshoon Charloterville
    Tehran ETC ... and the wife of Colonel Vuillier has continued to work for the Aga Khan 3 and the selections in the Race
    the denier scelectioner by Colonel was Phalaris !!! ...
    Which horse was born Varola? NOTHING response

    ad Caesari quod est Caesaris,

    1. Dear Anonymous,

      Thank you for following and contributing to my blog.

      True, Varola did not invent the designation of Chefs-de-Race. However, he did much to continue the work begun by Lt. Colonel J.J. Vuillier and Varola introduced aptitudinal analysis to the work begun by Vuillier. The behavioral aspect is what I find most fascinating about Varola's work.

      dabit Deo quae Dei (give to God the things of God)


  3. excuse Heads of breeds = CHEFS DE RACE Merci

  4. Good morning, dear Sir
    I'm AnonymousAugust 3, 2016 at 8:30 AM

    Tesio does not work with Breed Leaders but only with NICKS in which he incorporate undefeated horses.
    I made a site that explains it if you want the address I would give it to you

    good continuation

    Franck Bridget