Ribot was, without question, one of the best horses to race in the twentieth century. The last champion bred by the great Italian breeder Frederico Tesio, who had also bred Nearco, he was undefeated throughout a 16 race European career, with his victories including two runnings of the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. He never raced in America, but when he was imported to stand stud at Darby Dan Farm, he sired such top horses as Graustark and Tom Rolfe.
Tom Rolfe won the Preakness Stakes, the Arlington Classic, and the American Derby en route to a divisional championship in 1965. Graustark showed even greater promise until his brilliant career was cut short by injury in the Blue Grass Stakes. Ribot's best American son, however, was Arts and Letters.
Paul Mellon became the breeder of record when he purchased the mare All Beautiful, in foal to Ribot, at the William du Pont Jr. dispersal sale. A couple months later, on April 1, 1966, she foaled the chestnut colt who became Mellon's most successful horse. Under the tutelage of J. Elliot Burch, Paul Mellon's homebred ended the Triple Crown bid of Majestic Prince and earned Horse of the Year honors in 1969.
After a conservative juvenile campaign, Arts and Letters wintered in Florida. He won the Everglades Stakes, then ran second behind Top Knight, the previous season's juvenile champion, in the Flamingo Stakes and the Florida Derby. When he arrived in Kentucky, he proved himself to be a leading contender for the classics by winning the Blue Grass Stakes by fifteen lengths.
Arts and Letters failed to get the better of Majestic Prince at Churchill Downs, and finished second in the Kentucky Derby. The story was the same at Pimlico. Before the Belmont, his connections decided he needed a different challenge, and Arts and Letters met the top older horse Nodouble in the Metropolitan Handicap.
After successfully outrunning the chestnut son of Noholme II and winning the first leg of the Handicap Triple Crown by two and a half lengths, Arts and Letters once again met Majestic Prince.
This time the story was different. It was Majestic Prince who had to settle for second money as Arts and Letters won the Belmont Stakes by 5 1/2 lengths.
After a well deserved rest, Arts and Letters won the Jim Dandy Stakes, then equaled Saratoga's track record of 2:01 3/5 for a mile and a quarter when he won the Travers Stakes. After twice more demonstrating his superiority over Nodouble, winning the Woodward Stakes by two lengths and the long Jockey Club Gold Cup by a stunning fourteen lengths, Arts and Letters called it a season. He had earned $555,604, and was named Champion 3 Yr Old Colt as well as Horse of the Year.
At four, Arts and Letters raced only three times. After winning the Grey Lag Handicap, he suffered a career ending injury in the Californian Stakes, which canceled a planned European campaign. He retired with eleven wins, six seconds and a third in twenty three starts. He had more than paid his dam's $175,000 purchase price, having earned a total of $632,404. Syndicated for $100,000 per share, he stood for a fee of $20,000 at Greentree Stud, and later at Gainesway Farm.
Arts and Letters sired 29 stakes winners including Codex, who won the 1980 Preakness, and was broodmare sire to more than fifty stakes winners, including Breeders Cup Classic winner Alphabet Soup. Elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994 and pensioned in 1995, Arts and Letters passed away in 1998 at the age of thirty-two.
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