Posted on October 14, 2011 - by Annie Johnson
This week kicks off the Times’ Turf Pedigree section — from the vault we have selected the following piece on the renowned stallion from the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine’s December 1829 issue.
Memoir of Sir Archy. — This justly celebrated horse was foaled in the spring of 1805, on James River, in Virginia, and was bred by Col. Archibald Randolph and Col. John Tayloe, as their joint property.
Sir Archy is of rich bay colour, having no white about him, except on his right hind foot. He is a horse of commanding size, fully sixteen hands high, with great power and substance. He is eminently superior in all those points indispensable to the turf horse, and mainly contributory to strength and action.
His shoulder, the most material part of the horse, is strikingly distinguished, being very deep, fairly mounting up to the top of the withers, and obliquely inclined to the hips. His girth is full and deep, back short and strong, thighs and arms long and muscular, his bone good.
His front appearance is fine and commanding – his head and neck are well formed, the latter rising well out of his withers. Take Sir Archy upon the whole, and he has more size, power and substance than we often see combined in the full bred horse.
As a racer he was considered very superior. He did not run many races, but beat all the best horses of his day; among them were Wrangler, Tom Tough, Palafox, Minerva, Ratray, Gallatin, and also Gen. Carney’s celebrated racer Blank, by Citizen. When Sir Archy quit the turf, he had no equal in this country, as will be seen by the following extract of a letter from Col. W. R. Johnson [Johnson, the “Napoleon of the Turf,” had raced Archy as a four-year-old in 1809; following his race against Blank, in which he ran the fastest four miles south of the James River, at 7:52, Sir Archy was sold for $5,000 and immediately retired to stud — ATT Ed.]:
I have only to say that, in my opinion, Sir Archy is the best horse I ever saw, and I well know that I never had any thing to do with one that was at all his equal; and this I will back; for, if any horse in the world, will run against him at any half way ground, four mile heats, according to the rules of racing, you may consider me $5000 with you on him. He was in good condition this fall, (1809) and has not run with any horse that could put him to half speed towards the end of the race. — W. R. Johnson
Sir Archy was got by the imported horse Diomed; his dam the imported mare Castianira – she was got by Rockingham, out of Tabitha, by Trentham; her dam (Tabitha’s) out of the dam of Pegasus. Vide Gen. Stud Book. Rockingham, the best son of highflyer, and he the best son of old King Herod. The dam of Rockingham, Purity, by Matchem, out of the famous Squirt mare. Trentham, a horse of great power and celebrity of his day, was by Sweepstakes, out of a South mare.
Diomed, (the sire of Sir Archy,) was got by Florizel, one of the best sons of old King Herod; his dam (Diomed’s) by Spectator; his grandam by Blank, Flying Childers, Miss Bellvoir, by Grey Grantham, Paget Turk, Betty Percival, Leeds Arabian.
Diomed was one of the best racers on the English turf; and was unquestionably the finest formed horse ever imported into this country; and as a foal getter, he has had no equal except in his son.
Diomed had the rare faculty of getting colts of size and form from almost all the mares that he covered, and he more generally got racers than any other stallion that preceded him; and as to the celebrity of his colts, as first rate racers, they have far eclipsed those of any other horse’s get, except those of Sir Archy.
What stallion, then, so worthy to be the sire of Sir Archy than Diomed? Yet a report has been in circulation a dozen years or more, calculated to rob Diomed of this honour, and to confer it on another stallion called Gabriel, sire of Postboy, Harlequin and Oscar. This report first originated among grooms, who, of all others, are best calculated to give currency to reports without foundation.
Col. Tayloe, who jointly with Col. Randolph, bred Sir Archy, confidently avers the fact that Diomed was the sire of Sir Archy [We have inserted here the text of the letter written by Tayloe, featured in American Farmer, 11 August 1826; a second letter of the Colonel’s, along with an extract of Archy’s pedigree, was published in AF one year later, reaffirming that “any doubts concerning his pedigree are out of the question.”– ATT. Ed.]:
To your inquiry relative to the sireship of Sir Archy, I have to observe in reply, that I sold one half of Castianira, the dam of Sir Archy, to Mr. Archibald Randolph before Sir Archy was foaled on the south side of James River in the spring of 1805 the joint property of Mr. Randolph and myself. I believe that Gabriel was alive in 1804, but I am very confident he never covered at the stand with [Diomed].
Gabriel and Sir Archy are something alike in form, but not in color, Gabriel being brown — can’t speak positively as to marks, but have no hesitation in saying there can be no doubt of Sir Archy’s being got by Diomed. Castianira was a dark brown, almost a black mare. — Col. John Tayloe III
In the Spring of 1804, the season that Sir Archy was got, old Diomed stood at Col. Selden’s below Richmond. Mr. Selden, his son, who is now living, saw Castianira (the dam of Archy) covered on the same day by Diomed, that he got Wrangler. This declaration of Mr. Selden puts the question beyond all doubt.
But if we were to reason on other circumstances, I should reject Gabriel as the sire of Sir Archy. Gabriel’s stock were not large, but only common size; hence the improbability of his being the sire of so large a horse as Sir Archy. Whereas, Diomed’s stock were generally of good size, and Sir Archy bears a strong resemblance to the Rockingham and Herod Stock; of which blood, he possessed a large share, not only through Rockingham, but also through Florizel, the sire of Diomed.
Sir Archy may justly be allowed to be one of the best bred horses this country or England has ever produced. He was not only a distinguished racer, but, as a stallion, he stands upon higher ground than any other horse that has covered in America, and may rank with the best stallions in England.
He has done as much for the turf stock of this country as the Godolphin Arabian, King Herod, or Highflyer, for that of Great Britain. Most of the best stock at present in this country are either immediately from the loins of Sir Archy, or have been produced from his sons and daughters.
Sir Archy covered at $50 the season until within a few years, when his price was raised to $75 the season, and $100 insurance; at which price he now covers in North Carolina.
A list of his most distinguished get is here added, but it is far from being complete: Timoleon; Reality; Vanity; Lawrence; Director; Virginian; Carolinian; Ratler; Childers; Sumpter; Flirtilla; Sir Charles; Janette; Napoleon; Full sister to Napoleon; Reap Hook; Contention; Lady Lightfoot; Sir Henry; Sir William; Muckle John; Marion; Tecumseh; Saxe Weimar; Kate Kearney; Roanoake; Janus; Mark Anthony; Rinaldo; Stockholder; Bertrand; Pacific; Cherokee; Arab; Coquette; Jeannett; Tariff; Gohanna; Phillis; Creeping Kate; Robert Adair; Lady Burton; Fantail; Giles Scroggins; Sir Arthur; Pirate; Lady La Grange; Rarity; and Kosciusko — And many others not recollected.
American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine 1, no. 4 (December 1829): 165-167.
[While the author of this piece was not recognized, the eminent racing historian John Hervey attributed this article to the “opinion of that high authority, the late Fairfax Harrison,” author of Early American Turf Stock, The Equine F.F.V’s and volumes on the stud of Belair, Roanoke and St. John’s Island — ATT Ed.]
According to The Life and Times of Sir Archie: The Story of America’s Greatest Thoroughbred, 1805-1833, Sir Archy was the common spelling used by the American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine and the American Farmer, as well as the horse’s early owner Col. John Tayloe III. However, the colt – who was originally named Robert Burns – was renamed in honor of his former master Captain Archibald Randolph, “who wrote his own nickname as ‘Sir Archie.’” As evidenced in the handbill, the Amis family, which owned the stallion from 1817 until his death in 1833, also recognized him as Archie.
The Life and Times of Sir Archie was a compilation of years of research by Elizabeth Amis Cameron Blanchard until her death in 1956; her notes comprised ten volumes, which Manly Wade Wellman realized into book form for publication in 1958.
American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine 1, no. 4 (December 1829): 165-167.
Blanchard, Elizabeth Amis Cameron, and Wellman, Manly Wade, The Life and Times of Sir Archie: The Story of America’s Greatest Thoroughbred, 1805-1833 (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 1958), vii-viii, 149, 153-4, 187, 216.
Hervey, John, Racing in America 1665-1865, vol. 1 (New York: Privately Printed by The Jockey Club, The Scriber Press, 1944), 196-9.
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