Sir Archy

Sir Archy

Thoroughbred racehorse infobox
horsename = Sir Archy

caption = Engraving of Sir Archy from "Frank Forester's Horse and Horsemanship of the United States" volume one published 1857
sire = Diomed GB
grandsire = Florizel GB
dam = Castianira GB
damsire = Rockingham GB
sex = Stallion
foaled = 1805
country = United States (Virginia) flagicon|USA
colour = Dark Bay
breeder = Capt. Archibald Randolph
Col. John Tayloe III
owner = Ralph Wormely VI
Col. William R. Johnson at 3
Gen. William R. Davie, at stud
trainer = Thomas Larkin
Arthur Taylor
record = 7 Starts: 4-1-0
earnings= Unknown
race = Post Stakes (1809)
Jockey Club Purse, Fairfield (1809)
Jockey Club Purse, Petersburg (1809)
Match race with the splendid four-miler, Blank (1809)
honours = U.S. Racing Hall of Fame (1955)
updated= December 19, 2007

Sir Archy (or Archy, Archie, or Sir Archie, and first named “Robert Burns” before settling on Sir Archy) was born and bred in the American state of Virginia by two Virginians, Capt. Archibald Randolph and Col. John Tayloe III. By the time he was foaled, his great sire and Epsom Derby winner, Diomed (imported from England at an already advanced age) had three years to live, dying in 1808. His dam, a blind mare called Castianira out of Rockingham (by the great English sire, Highflyer), had been purchased in England by Tayloe for his own Airy Farm, but was bred on shares with his friend Randolph. Her second foal, a dark bay colt with a small patch of white on his right hind pastern, was born on Randolph’s Ben Lomond Plantation on the James River. Tayloe changed the colt’s name in honor of his friend.

At the track

When Sir Archy was two, both Tayloe and Randolph sold him to Ralph Wormely VI for $400 and a filly whose name has not come down to us. And then Wormely decided to quit the world of horse racing. Offering to sell Sir Archy, there were no takers. So, still owned by Wormely, Sir Archy made his first start in the Washington Sweepstakes in Washington, DC late in his third year. By then he’d reached the height of 16 hands. He was forced to run or Wormely would pay a forfeit (as such things were done in those days) even though he had yet to recover from a case of distemper. Still not well, his second start a month later was over Richmond, Virginia’s Fairfield course. He did not do well, but he did much better in the three heats against a good colt named True Blue. Something about him caught the eye of the owner of True Blue. William Ransom Johnson (called “The Napoleon of the Turf”), promptly bought him for $1,500.

Now in the hands of Johnson’s trainer, Arthur Taylor, Sir Archy at four became one of the greatest runners of his day, excelling in four mile heats, but when his racing days were over because none would come out against him (Johnson had bet $10,000 Sir Archy could beat any horse in America: no one took up the bet) he became what most experts consider to be the first great Thoroughbred stallion bred in America. Johnson then did something unusual; he let a great horse get away from him. (In later days, Johnson was very generous about his unexplained decision. He still called Sir Archy the best horse to have raced in America, and Sir Archy’s daughter, Reality, the best filly.) Offered $5,000 by General Davie, the then Governor of North Carolina, who was deeply impressed by his match race with Blank, Johnson sold him away.

In 1827, the Washington DC Jockey Club, followed by the Maryland Jockey Club, announced that only “certain” horses were eligible to run in their races. After reading the fine points of the complex “announcement” what it said in effect was: no horses sired by Sir Archy allowed. The reason was simple. The sons and daughters of Sir Archy won all the races. This meant few, if any, horses not sired by Sir Archy bothered to race. Both Jockey Clubs admitted they were worried about their continued existence.

At stud

Sir Archy went to stud, sometimes under lease for Johnson, but eventually, from 1818 on, in Northampton County, North Carolina on the Mowfield Plantation (aka Moorfied) of William Amis. Even at the age of 24, his stud fee was one hundred dollars. The son of William Amis estimated that during the years he stood at Mowfield he earned $76,000 in stud fees.

Diomed’s greatest son became known as the Godolphin of America, meaning that his influence on the American Thoroughbred was as important as Godolphin’s influence on European breeding. Like the “Blind Hero of Woodburn,” Lexington (who was his great grandson), Sir Archy became one of the greatest of America's Foundation Sires. All through the 1820’s the very best horses were descendents of Sir Archy.

ir Archy’s a sire

Siring at the very least 31 known turf champions, including heavily influencing the American Quarter Horse through his son, Copperbottom, the following is a list of some of his most notable offspring.

* Timoleon (b. 1814, considered the best race horse of his day)
* Bertrand (b. 1826, some call him Sir Archy’s best; became a national leading sire in his own right)
* Sir Charles (b. 1816, the national leading sire in 1830, 1831, 1832, 1833, & 1836. )
* Sumpter (b. 1818, won eight consecutive races when races were grueling heats, became a broodmare sire of great note.)
* Stockholder (b. 1819, the most popular sire in Tennessee in his day. His daughters were extremely successful producers.)
* Lady Lightfoot (b. 1812, records are incomplete, but she may have won 30 to 40 races, racing through age 11. In her first try, she ran the fastest heats in Maryland up to her time. As a broodmare she produced 8 foals in 9 years. One, Black Maria, was considered better than her dam.)
* Reality (b. 1813, a filly rated as good or better than Sir Archy or Boston by William R. Johnson, who had owned, at one time or another, all three.)
* Henry (b. 1819, a very good racehorse, a popular sire, and the only horse who ever defeated American Eclipse in any race.)
* Sally Hope (b. 1822, won 22 of her 27 races, the last 18 in succession.)
* Flirtilla (b. 1828, an influential carrier of the blood of Sir Archy.)

As a grandsire and further

Into the second generation, Sir Archy’s influence became even more pronounced. This was partly due to the fact that inbreeding to Sir Archy and to his sire, Diomed, became quite the rage. What this meant was that Sir Archy was bred back to his daughters and his sire’s daughters. This kind of inbreeding, at least in Sir Archy’s case, worked.
* Bonnets o' Blue (by Sir Charles out of Reality; Bonnets o’ Blue was the dam of Fashion.)
* Lexington was by Boston who was sired by Timoleon.


At the age of 26, Sir Archy ended his stud career, living for two more years before dying on June 7, 1833. This was the same day that one of his greatest sons, Sir Charles, also died.

Sir Archy was one of the first handful of horses inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1955.

Sir Archy is buried, along with his groom and dog, at Ben Lomond Farm in Rockcastle, Va. A historic marker, erected by the Goochland County (Va.) Historical Society, marks the grave to this day.


* "The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America" by William H.P. Roberton, Bonanza Books, New York, 1964
* [ Sir Archy’s pedigree and illustration]
* [ Sir Archy in the Hall of Fame]

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