BloodHorse Library


BackTrack: Ribot Repeats in Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe

In a race that included a pair of U.S.-based horses, Ribot delivered a final win.

Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney's Fisherman and Career Boy were the first American-trained horses ever to attempt the difficult feat of winning Longchamp's Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, for many years the leading international race on the continent of Europe and now the richest race outside the United States. Their performance in the 1956 renewal on Sunday, Oct. 7, gained only 1,250,000 francs—about $3,570—in fourth money, but, considering the difficult and unfamiliar terrain, it was quite good—good enough, perhaps, to encourage American sportsmen to seek the prestige of an Arc de Triomphe victory with better horses.

The 5-year-old Fisherman, with Sean Boulmetis up, was sacrificed to the task of cutting out as sharp a pace as possible on the sticky course. He led the pack of 20 runners on the long backstretch ascent, with Norfolk, the odds-on Ribot, Fric, Master Boing, and Apollonia close behind at first but some three or four lengths behind as they hit the top of the five-furlong climb. Fisherman appeared to have something left as he began the downhill run on the turn, but actually he was used up and jockey Enrico Camici still had Ribot under a strong hold as the favorite went past the leader at the top of the long straight.

Ribot was still in hand as he drew out to win by six lengths, getting the 2,400 meters in 2:34.76. Talgo, the English-trained winner of the Irish Derby, came out of the pack to take second place, two lengths ahead of Tamerko, which held the slightest advantage in a photo finish with Career Boy and Master Boing. Eddie Arcaro found Career Boy willing and able for the stretch run but he reported later that the 3-year-old "didn't handle the hill on the backstretch too good; otherwise I believe he would have been second." Fisherman finished ninth, Apollonia dead last of the 20 starters. Also far back among the unplaced were the Oaks winner Sicarrelle and the Grand Prix de Paris winner Vattel.

It was Ribot's second victory in the 2,400-meter Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, and the 16th, all told, for the 4-year-old son of Tenerani—Romunella, by El Greco. He now retires unbeaten and will go to the stud next year, the Marchese Incisa della Rochetta said, either at Dormello, near Milan, where he was bred, "or, if negotiations are successful, at Lord Derby's stud at Newmarket."

Except for the Gran Criterium of 1954, which he won by a head from Gail, Ribot won his races by margins ranging from one to 15 lengths. After his easy triumph in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot in July of this year, Ton Nickalls described him in the Sporting Life as "the best horse in the world." Evan Shipman's story from Paris for Daily Racing Form and Morning Telegraph began: "Champion not only of Italy, but of the world ..." The prestige of the big English and French internationals was such that no one bothered to attempt a qualification on behalf of Nashua or Swaps.

Numerous Americans in the crowd of approximately 100,000 who saw the Arc de Triomphe gained new appreciation of European horses and the tasks they face. A United Press story quoted Arcaro as saying the Longchamp course was "better than anything we have in the United States." 

C.V. Whitney, who had won the 1954 Washington D.C. International at Laurel with Fisherman said, "I thought we should return the courtesy." If he comes across another runner such as Equipoise or Counterpoint, he may return the courtesy again, with more successful results.