Federico Tesio

Federico Tesio


One of the Great Protagonists of Italian Horse Racing

Of humanistic and scientific culture, passionate about art, he contributed like few others to the development of Italian horse racing, both on a technical and regulatory level.

Born in Turin on 17 January 1869, Federico Tesio was soon orphaned by both parents and was entrusted to a guardian. Having entered the Royal College “Carlo Alberto” of Moncalieri as a boarder in 1880, the young Federico left a few years later, inheriting his parents’ rich heritage upon adulthood and starting a series of trips around the world which led him to visit Patagonia in 1891–1892 and China in 1895, as well as India and North America.

Federico Tesio Real Collegio Carlo Alberto

The Royal College Carlo Alberto

Although the Royal College was a school run by the Barnabite fathers, the presence in the institute, as a teacher of scientific subjects, of Father Francesco Denza, a distinguished figure of astronomer and meteorologist, most likely influenced the thoughts of Tesio, who joined, in the youthful years, to the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin.

This is, perhaps, the key to understanding his trip to Patagonia, dictated by his desire to somehow retrace Darwin’s footsteps.

From the naturalistic observations and on the indigenous populations collected during his trip to Patagonia Federico Tesio drew an account that remained in the history of the Italian Geographical Society.

Passionate about horse racing and himself a rider in gallop, obstacle and flat races, on 29 January 1898 Tesio married Lydia Fiori from Serramezzana, of noble origins.

Federico Tesio e Lydia Fior

Federico Tesio and Lydia Fiori from Serramezzana, of noble origins

Following a disastrous fall from his horse, Federico Tesio decided not to compete anymore.

The same year he purchased the property of Dormello, on Lake Maggiore in the province of Novara, to realize his dream as a successful breeder of thoroughbred horses, also helped by his wife Lydia, a horse lover, who personally compiled the “Stud” until 1942.

Book of English Fullbred Horses”, a pedigree register of mares in breeding with the sums won in racing.

Federico Tesio Lake Maggiore

The Lake Maggiore

In reading scientific books, Tesio looked for the “secret formula” that was to be used to produce champion horses. The chance meeting in 1906, on the train on the Genoa-Pisa route, with an Oxford professor who was reading a text on Mendel’s theories, made Tesio understand the importance of genetic inheritance and therefore of the transmission of characteristics in reproduction.

Since the thoroughbred horse is a hybrid, no thoroughbred mating can offer a predictable result and therefore, the chances of obtaining champion horses are low.

Thanks to research on the pedigrees of Derby winners and Oaks winners, Tesio discovered that the winning generations included the first three direct lines but never the fourth, both in the male and female lines.

Hence the intuition that the ability to run was not preserved in the female line, in stark contrast with the theories of Bruce Lowe, who, at the end of the nineteenth century, classifying the female breeding families, believed that if they had proven themselves valid, could continue to be so indefinitely, so the foals and mares were judged on the basis of the merits demonstrated by the members of their family even in previous eras.

Federico Tesio Thoroughbred

From his intuition Tesio derived the habit of continually renewing the families in his stable.

Due to liquidity problems, in 1932 Tesio sold 50 percent of his company to the Marquis Mario Incisa della Rocchetta for four million lire, which from then on took the name of “Tesio–Incisa” and gave new impetus to the importation of mares from abroad.

With his numerous experiments, Federico Tesio managed to obtain horses that individually or by descent imposed themselves on other Italian and foreign breedings: Apelle, Angelica Kauffmann, Cavaliere d’Arpino, Donatello II, Nearco, Romanella, Tenerani, only to name a few, to get to Ribot, the great, son of Tenerani and Romanella, never seen in the race by Tesio due to his death on 1 May 1954.

Club Cavallo Italia

Ribot and Camici, his jockey

In addition to being an owner and breeder, Federico Tesio has also provided his precious contribution to the development of institutional horse racing. In fact, it should not be forgotten that his name appears in the list of those present at the general assembly constituting UNIRE which was held in Rome on 20 August 1932.

Appointed senator of the Kingdom of Italy in 1939, Federico Tesio collaborated with Paolo Orsi Mangelli in the drafting of the Decree of 24 March 1942, which attributed numerous tasks to UNIRE, expressly reserving to it the right to operate totalizators and bets also through subjects delegated by the entity itself and to allocate the proceeds deriving from bets, net of the costs of organizing and managing the races, to a prize fund to be distributed among the racing companies and equestrian organisations.

Source: Unire – IT Service – Studies and Statistics Office, which we thank.

Federico Tesio and Nearco


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