Tesio often liked
to make the point that he employed Mendel's law of heredity in breeding, but
despite his scientific pretensions he was widely known as the "Magician of
Dormello." On the practical level where horses are concerned, Mendelian
principles are better in retrospect than they are as aids to predicting. They
require too many samples to prove a point. Tesio knew this and dared to try
unorthodox experiments which no stable manager seriously would have suggested.
Where all factors pointed to two horses being mated, Tesio, perhaps shrewdly,
perhaps intuitively, would spurn the obvious and breed one of the pair to
another horse because it possessed qualities Tesio felt might prove the exact
catalyst which could provide strong positive results.
This probably is
what Tesio's famous alchemy consisted of. Donna Lydia, Dr. Pagliano and Incisa,
if they know more, will not tell. But one can hazard guesses. Take the case of
Ribot's genealogy. All along the line one finds the blood of the English
stallion St. Simon (five St. Simon offspring on the father's side and two on
the mother's). St. Simon was a bay, born in 1881, who never won great prizes.
His owner died when St. Simon was three years old and, according to
regulations, the horse was withdrawn from all races. Among Ribot's 15
great-great-great grand parents, six are St. Simon's sons and one is St.
Simon's grandson. St. Simon was bred by the Hungarian Prince Batthyany and
bought at auction by the Duke of Portland for 1,600 guineas. The day he watched
St. Simon gallop for the first time, the duke was appalled. He told his
trainer: "I'm afraid he runs like a rabbit, not a horse." That was very
probably the galloping style which Federico Tesio had been patiently waiting
and searching for among St. Simon's progeny. He was certain that, if he lived
long enough, by Mendel's laws, it would crop up again. It did.
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