Engraving of Sir Archy from Frank Forester's Horse and Horsemanship of the United States vol. 1, published 1857
|Country||United States (Virginia)|
|Breeder||Capt. Archibald Randolph
Col. John Tayloe III
Ralph Wormely VI
|Record||7 Starts: 4–1–0|
|Post Stakes (1809)
Jockey Club Purse, Fairfield (1809)
Jockey Club Purse, Petersburg (1809)
Match race with the splendid four-miler, Blank (1809)
|U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1955)|
|Last updated on December 19, 2007|
Born and bred in Virginia by two Americans, Capt. Archibald Randolph and Col. John Tayloe III, Sir Archy's sire was the Epsom Derby winner Diomed, who had been imported from England as an older horse. His dam, a blind mare named Castianira, had been purchased in England by Tayloe for his own Airy Farm, but was bred on shares with his friend Randolph. Sir Archy, Castianira's second foal, was born on Randolph’s Ben Lomond Plantation on the James River in Goochland County. The colt, dark bay with a small patch of white on his right hind pastern, was originally named "Robert Burns"; Tayloe changed the colt’s name in honor of Randolph.
On the track
When Sir Archy was two, Tayloe and Randolph sold him to Ralph Wormely IV for $400 and an unknown filly. When Wormely later decided to quit horse racing Sir Archy was offered for sale, but there were no takers. Still owned by Wormely, Sir Archy made his first start in the Washington (D.C.) Sweepstakes late in his three-year-old season; by now, he already stood 16 hands high. Though Sir Archy had not yet recovered from a case of strangles Wormely ran him, rather than pay a forfeit fee. Still unwell, Sir Archy made his second start a month later at the Fairfield Sweepstakes in Richmond, Virginia. Though he won only the third heat and finished third overall to Colonel William Ransom Johnson's colt True Blue, Johnson promptly bought Sir Archy for $1,500.
Now in the hands of Johnson’s trainer, Arthur Taylor, Sir Archy became one of the greatest runners of his day, excelling in four-mile heats. His racing days ended when Johnson made a standing bet of $10,000 that Sir Archy could beat any horse in America and there were no takers. He finally quite racing because there were no opponents willing to race against him. His record on the racetrack was 7 starts, with 4 wins and 1 second. Sir Archy then became what most experts consider to be the first great Thoroughbred stallion bred in America. Johnson sold Sir Archy for $5,000 to General William Richardson Davie. Later, though, Johnson was very generous about his decision; he called Sir Archy the best horse to ever race in America and Sir Archy’s daughter, Reality, the best filly.
In 1827, the Washington DC Jockey Club and the Maryland Jockey Club announced that only a limited number of horses were eligible to run in their races. Although the fine points of the announcement were complex, it effectively barred all horses sired by Sir Archy; his offspring were so successful that few, if any, horses not sired by Sir Archy bothered to race. Both Jockey Clubs admitted they were concerned about their long-term viability.
Sir Archy went to stud, at first under Davie, then under Davie's son, who appears to have stood the stallion in Virginia for a couple of years. Then William Amis bought Sir Archy, and stood the horse for 17 years at his plantation, Mowfield, near the Roanoke River in Northampton County, North Carolina. Even at the advanced age of 24, Sir Archy's stud fee was $100. Amis' son estimated that during the years he stood at Mowfield, Sir Archy earned $76,000 in stud fees.
The stallion became known as the Godolphin Arabian of America, meaning that his influence on the American Thoroughbred was as important as the Godolphin Arabian’s influence on European breeding. Like the “Blind Hero of Woodburn,” Lexington—who was his great–grandson—Sir Archy became one of America's greatest foundation sires. Throughout the 1820s, the fastest horses in America were descendants of Sir Archy.
Sir Archy’s progeny
Siring at least 31 racing champions, and influencing the American Quarter Horse through his son Copperbottom, the following is a list of some of his most notable offspring:
- Timoloen (foaled 1814; considered the best race horse of his day)
- Bertrand (foaled 1826. Some call him Sir Archy’s best; became a national leading sire in his own right)
- Sir Charles (foaled 1816; national leading sire in 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833 and 1836)
- Sumpter (foaled 1818; won eight consecutive races when races were grueling heats. Became a broodmare sire of great note)
- Stockholder (foaled 1819; most popular sire in Tennessee at the time. His daughters were extremely successful producers)
- Lady Lightfoot (foaled 1812; records are incomplete but she may have won 30 – 40 races, racing through age 11. In her first try, she ran the fastest heats in Maryland up to that time. As a broodmare, she produced eight foals in nine years. One, Black Maria, was considered better than her dam)
- Reality (foaled 1813; a filly rated at least as good as Sir Archy or Boston by William R. Johnson. He owned all three at various times)
- Henry (foaled 1819; a very good racehorse, a popular sire, and the only horse to ever defeat American Eclipse)
- Sally Hope (foaled 1822; won 22 of her 27 races, the last 18 in succession)
- Flirtilla (foaled 1828; influential carrier of Sir Archy's blood )
As grandsire and beyond
Into the second generation, Sir Archy’s influence became even more pronounced. This was partly because inbreeding to Sir Archy and to his sire, Diomed, became quite fashionable among American breeders. In Sir Archy's case, he was bred back to his daughters and his sire’s daughters. This kind of inbreeding, ordinarily risky, was successful for the Sir Archy-Diomed line.
- Bonnets o' Blue (by Sir Charles out of Reality; dam of Fashion.)
- Lexington was by Boston, who was sired by Timoleon.
At the age of 26 Sir Archy ended his stud career in 1831, living for two more years until his death in 1833 on June 7. Coincidentally, this was the same day that one of his greatest sons (Sir Charles) also died.
Sir Archy is buried, along with his groom and canine companion, at Ben Lomond Farm in Goochland, Virginia where he was born. A historical marker, erected by the Goochland County (Virginia) Historical Society in 1972, marks his grave. The grave is surrounded by a stone wall and is now hidden by trees in the southeast corner of a field at the top of the farm acreage.
Sir Archy is buried at the Mowfield Plantation in Northampton County North Carolina, just west of the town of Jackson. He resided there from 1818 until his death in 1833. His exact location of burial is unknown. The original plantation house still stands. However when it was renovated, the property owners preferred to live in the house, and updated the interior for modern convince. Reference for this information can be verified at various websites dealing with the history of North Carolina.
- Robertson, William H. P. (1964). The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. New York: Bonanza Books. p. 39. OCLC 64-17364.
- Wall, John F. (1949). Famous Running Horses: Their Forebears and Descendants (Kessinger Publishing reprint ed.). Washington, D. C.: Sportsmen's Press. pp. 114–115. ISBN 1-4325-9386-2.
- Robertson, William H. P. (1964). The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. New York: Bonanza Books. p. 37. OCLC 64-17364.
- Robertson, William H. P. (1964). The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. New York: Bonanza Books. pp. 47–49. OCLC 64-17364.
- "Hall of Fame, Thoroughbred Race Horses". National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame. Retrieved 2011-01-05.
- Blanchard, Elizabeth Amis Cameron; Wellman, Manly Wade (1958). Lasker, Edward; Lasker, Cynthia, eds. The Life and Times of Sir Archie: The Story of America's Greatest Thoroughbred, 1805–1833. University of North Carolina Press.