In 1958, Christopher Chenery campaigned the 2-year-old champion, First Landing. Fifteen years later, Chenery’s Meadow Stud bred a bay colt which was foaled at A. B. (Bull) Hancock Jr.’s Claiborne Farm by First Landing who followed as Champion 2-year-old colt. Named Riva Ridge, he dominated the 2-year-old division in 1971 winning five stakes races including the Champagne S. by 7 lengths, Laurel Futurity by 11 lengths, and the lucrative Garden State Stakes.
The following season, trainer Lucien Laurin announced to the astonishment of seasoned Turf writers and fellow horsemen that Riva Ridge would make only three starts prior to that year’s Kentucky Derby. He won the Hibiscus Stakes, was unplaced in the Everglades at Hialeah over a sloppy surface and then won the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland nine days prior to the Derby. With a brilliant wire-to-wire victory in the Kentucky Derby as the 3-2 favorite, Riva Ridge couldn’t handle a sloppy track in the Preakness and finished fourth. He redeemed himself with a resounding 7-length win in the Belmont Stakes, prompting the question of what might have happened “if it only had been dry for the Preakness. . .” Three weeks after the Triple Crown, Riva Ridge won the Hollywood Derby in hard-fought fashion. The effort took a lot out of him and compromised his form for the rest of the year, as he failed to win again in his remaining five starts that season. He lost out on the 3-year-old championship to Key to the Mint.
Riva Ridge raced to a championship season the following year as his much-heralded and year younger stablemate became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. With a major win in the Massachusetts H., Riva Ridge set a New World Record of 1:52:2 for 1 3/16 miles in the Brooklyn Handicap at Belmont. In late Summer, Riva Ridge carried highweight of 127 and finished a game second to stablemate Secretariat in the inaugural Marlboro Cup Invitational H. at Belmont Park. Both of the Meadow Stable entries broke the World Record for 1 1/8 miles in this race and afterward Penny (Chenery) Tweedy led in the winning Secretariat, but then sought out Riva Ridge later explaining, “I have the greatest admiration for Secretariat, but I love Riva Ridge.”
Riva Ridge was retired after that season as the twelfth equine millionaire. He was syndicated for the impressive sum of $5,120,000, and entered stud in 1974 at the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm.
At the time of his death of a heart attack at age 16, Riva Ridge was one of a dozen Claiborne sires ranked among the top 50 Leading Active Sires by Average Earnings Index. Riva Ridge sired only 359 foals in his 12 crops at Claiborne. Of those, 29 were stakes winners, including Tap Shoes, Rivalero, Alada, Blitey, Expressive Dance, Cerada Ridge. Daughters of Riva Ridge produced more than 50 stakes winners, 4 champions, and G1 winners Dancing Spree, Classy Mirage, Life At the Top, etc.