Sir Archie

13 Jul
Sir Archie by M. Stainforth

Sir Archie by M. Stainforth – Reproduced by Goochland County Historical Society & Museum with the permission of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

1805-1833

Famed racehorse Sir Archie is considered to be one of the greatest foundation sires in America, his influence is so important that he has been named the “Godolphin Arabian of America”.  Foaled at Archibald Cary Randolph’s Ben Lomond farm in Goochland County in 1805, he was sired by Diomed, an Epsom Derby winner and Castianira, owned by Col. John Tayloe III of Mt. Airy in Richmond County, Virginia.  Randolph originally named the foal “Robert Burns” but Tayloe changed the name to “Sir Archie” in honor of his friend Archibald.  Randolph was renowned for financial problems and these forced the sale of Sir Archie at only 2 years of age.

Sir Archie eventually landed in the hands of Col. William Ransom Johnson who trained him into one of the best race horses ever bred in Virginia.  His fame brought about his racing end when no opponents could be found to race against him and Jockey Clubs would not let him enter their competitions.  Sir Archie was then put to stud where he stood for 17 years at Mowfield plantation in North Carolina and made in excess of $70,000 for owner William Amis.

Much controversy surrounds Sir Archie’s birth and death locations.  “The Roanoke Stud” by Fairfax Harrison put his foaling in Cumberland County, Virginia.  This inaccuracy was later picked up by Elizabeth Amis Cameron Blanchard in her 1958 book “The Life and Times of Sir Archie”.   In December, 1970, a search was made of the Cumberland County records and no record of Archibald Cary Randolph or Ben Lomond was found.  Randolph is listed in the Goochland County records and is shown as owning Ben Lomond which is squarely within the bounds of Goochland, thus settling that question.

Ben Lomond – during restoration

The second controversy involving Sir Archie is the location of his final resting place: Mowfield or Ben Lomond?  Blanchard lists his final resting place as Mowfield plantation and a historical marker there attests to this.  It does make a certain amount of sense that an aged horse would be too old to travel back to Goochland to pass away, however, several sources say otherwise.  Some believe that after reading an 1833 article describing the drastic state of the aged horse in the “American Turf Register”, Col. Tayloe purchased Sir Archie and brought him, his groom and canine companion back to Ben Lomond.  This is also written about by Richard Wright in his “The Story of Goochland”.  The “American Stud Book, Vol. II” of 1884 states: “Sir Archy by imported Diomed, foaled 1805: died in Virginia in 1833, the property of Col. J. Tayloe of Virginia: aged 28 years.”

On November 11, 1970, a dig was performed at Ben Lomond by the Historical Society, Masters of the Deep Run Hunt Club and a veterinarian at the supposed Goochland grave of Sir Archie.  Horse, human and dog bones were found, however proving them to be Sir Archie would be almost impossible.  Similar excavations at Mowfield have found no remains.  This mystery will be much harder to solve, however it does still allow both to claim the final resting place of this famous horse.

Digging up bones

In 1955, Sir Archie became one of the first horses inducted into the U.S. Racing Hall of Fame.  He sired 31 champion horses and through son Copperbottom, influenced the American Quarter Horse.  His bloodline can still be found in some of the most famous champions of the day.  Exciting and mysterious in life as in death, Sir Archie will always be one of Goochland’s favorite sons.

Contributed by James Richmond of the Goochland County Historical Society

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One Response to “Sir Archie”

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  1. Ben Lomond | Goochland History - January 31, 2015

    […] stone wall, the age of which is unknown. Inside this enclosure is speculated to be the grave of Sir Archie (1803-1833). He was the greatest racehorse of his day and sired many champions in his years at […]

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