Jump to: navigation, search

Archer (horse)

Sire William Tell (GB)
Dam Maid Of The Oaks
Grandsire Touchstone
Damsire Vagabond (GB)
Gender Stallion
Foaled 1856
"Exeter Farm"
Jembaicumbene near Braidwood,
New South Wales, Australia
Country Australia
Color Bay
Breeder Thomas John Roberts
& Rowland H. Hassall

Thomas John Roberts (1831-1899),
Rowland H. Hassall (1820-1904),
& the Estate of Thomas Molyneux Royds (1824-1852) whose beneficiaries were
Edmund Molyneux Royds (1847-1912),
& William Edward Royds (1849-1910)

Lessee for racing purposes
Etienne de Mestre (1832-1916)
Trainer Etienne de Mestre
Record Winner of first two Melbourne Cups
Earnings Not known
Archer is a thoroughbred racehorse out of Maid Of The Oaks by William Tell (GB). He was born on 1856
"Exeter Farm"
Jembaicumbene near Braidwood,
New South Wales, Australia in Australia, and was bred by Thomas John Roberts
& Rowland H. Hassall.
Major wins

Randwick Plate (1860)
Stewards Purse (1860)
Australian Plate (1861)
Randwick Plate (1861)
Maitland Town Plate (1861)
Melbourne Cup (1861 & 1862)
Melbourne Town Plate (1861)
AJC Queens Plate (1862)

All-Aged Stakes (1862)
Horse (Equus ferus caballus)

Archer (1856–1872) was an Australian Thoroughbred racehorse who won the first and the second Melbourne Cups in 1861 and 1862. He won both Cups easily, and is one of only five horses to win Melbourne Cup twice or more, and one of only four horses to win two successive Cups.



Archer was sired by the successful sire, William Tell (GB) (1843, by Touchstone) out of Maid of the Oaks (dam of Mariner and William Tell (1855)) by Vagabond (GB) (by Cain).[1] Archer's sire and dam had been owned by Thomas Molyneux "Tom" Royds (1824–1852) of "Ballalaba", Jembaicumbene, New South Wales. Royds formed a breeding partnership with his uncle-in-law Andrew Badgery (c.1804–1857), keeping their many horses on the Andrew Badgery managed "Exeter Farm", Jembaicumbene. For £51[2] Royds purchased the mare Maid Of The Oaks at the dispersal of Charles Smith's Clifton Stud in 1845. Royds also imported the stallion Sailor By The Sea, and in February 1847 the stallion William Tell. Archer’s full-sister Our Nell, won three races in four days at the Goulburn races (1855), and other races at city tracks.


Archer was foaled in 1856 at "Exeter Farm" at Jembaicumbene near Braidwood in New South Wales. In recent years there has been an argument that Archer was foaled not on the "Exeter Farm" owned by Roberts, but on Royd's previous cattle farm "Ballabala" owned by Hassall. Writing in 1983 Richard William Royds (1922-?), one of William Edward Royd's grandsons, stated that Archer was foaled at "Ballabala"[3], and this opinion has been reiterated by his widow and adopted son[4]. Richard's contention has also been repeated in the major reference for this article. All other references, however, state that Archer was foaled at "Exeter Farm"; something also stated by Richard's older brother John Patrick Molyneux Royds (1920-?) in an interview published in 1969[5]. It is also on "Exeter Farm" that other horses from the breeding partnership of Hassall & Roberts were foaled, including Archer's half-brother Mariner (1854) by Sailor By The Sea out of Maid Of The Oaks) and his full-brother William Tell (1855) by William Tell (GB) out of Maid Of The Oaks.

27-year-old Royds died in a tragic accident in early 1852. Two years later, in 1854, his widow Elizabeth Jane "Betsy" Royds (née Roberts) (1824–1875) married Rowland H. Hassall (1820–1904) of "Durham Hall" Jembaicumben, who, under the laws of the time, obtained all of Betsy's possessions on marriage. Even though Royd's will gave him no right to do so, Hassall began selling off the Royd horses at "Exeter Farm". Betsy managed to persuade Hassell to keep the imported stallion William Tell, and six of the brood mares, one of which was Maid Of The Oaks. Her brother Thomas John "Tom" Roberts (1831–1899), who had now inherited the "Exeter Farm", and as executor of Royd's estate[5][6] was trying to protect the interests of his nephews, was to care for the horses. As part of the agreement the progeny, including Archer, from the breeding program using the six mares joined to William Tell and other stallions, were recorded in the stud books under the breeding partnership name of (RH) Hassell & (TJ) Roberts. The names of the two boys to whom the horses had been willed, Edmund Molyneux Royds (1847–1912)(no issue) and William Edward Royds (1849–1910), were not mentioned. When in the 1870s the boys sued their stepfather, their interests were belatedly recognised, and the breeding partnership was renamed Hassell, Roberts & Royds.

Newspaper archives of the day reveal that Archer travelled south from Sydney to Port Melbourne on the steamboat the City of Sydney, together with two of his trainer Etienne de Mestre’s other horses Exeter and Inheritor, leaving on 18 September and arriving at Port Melbourne on 21 September. Prior to the Melbourne trip, the horses had arrived in Sydney by steamer from Greenwell Point near Nowra on 9 September. Passengers on the City of Sydney included de Mestre, and Archer's jockey John Cutts. Archer went by steamboat from Sydney to Melbourne all three times that he travelled to compete in Victorian races, in 1861, 1862 and 1863. A boat ride, in the days before railway facilities linking Melbourne to the other states, was the only way to transport the horses from interstate. In 1876 de Mestre's entry in the Melbourne Cup, Robin Hood, and ten other interstate horses were lost at sea when the City Of Melbourne was struck by a severe storm off the coast at Jervis Bay.[7]

A steamboat was also the way that de Mestre got his horses, including Archer, to Sydney. His horses usually boarded a steamer at Adam's Whalf near "Terara", but due to floods in early 1860 changing the channel to seriously impede naviagation, from 1860 to 1863 the horses needed to be walked 8 miles (13 km) to Berry's Whalf at Greenwell Point. When horses could not be transported by steamboat, and where railway lines did not exist, trainers had no choice but to have their horses walked and/or ridden to their destinations. For example, in order to race at Windsor Archer would have been sent by steamship or rail from Sydney to Parramatta and then overland the last 21 miles (34 km), and in order to race at Maitland Archer would have been sent by steamship to Newcastle and then overland the last 20 miles (32 km). The longest distance that Archer would ever had to have walked or been ridden was the 155 miles (250 km) from the end of the railway line in Campbelltown to Jembaicumbene on his retirement from racing in 1864.

The other Archer legend is that his jockey for the first two Melbourne Cups, John Cutts (c.1829–1872), was an Aboriginal. Johnny Cutts was, according to the legend, born in the area around Nowra, and one of the many Aboriginal males who replaced the bulk of the white stockmen who walked off the land to join the goldrush. Instead Johnny Cutts rode for many trainers in his long career as a jockey, was not from the Nowra area, and was never based there. Cutt's brother-in-law Walter Bradbury, however, lived at "Terara" as he worked for de Mestre, and helped to train Archer . John 'Cutts' Dillon was the son of a Sydney clerk, and one of the best known, best liked and most respected jockeys in New South Wales. Although it would be romantic to believe that an Aboriginal jockey had won the first and second Melbourne Cups, the most famous horse race in Australia, the cold hard facts of history do not allow this notion.

Racing career

In 1860 Archer was acquired and trained by the business associate and good school-friend of Tom Roberts, Etienne de Mestre (1832–1916), from "Terara" near Nowra in New South Wales. De Mestre, who would go on to train four Melbourne Cup winners in total, and win five Melbourne Cups, was the son of prominent Sydney businessman Prosper de Mestre (1789–1844). Although Archer raced in Etienne de Mestre's name, and therefore de Mestre is recorded by history as Archer's owner, Archer was not actually legally owned by de Mestre. Instead de Mestre leased some of his horses from Hassall and Roberts, for training and racing purposes, including Mariner (Archer's older half-brother), Archer, and Tim Whiffler with whom he later won the 1867 Melbourne Cup. As a lessee de Mestre "owned" and was fully responsible for the horses during the leases.

Archer was three years old when de Mestre began his training at "Terara" near Nowra in May 1860. Nick-named “The Bull” by the locals[8], Archer was considered unusually big for a three year old, standing 16.3 hands, with powerful hindquarters, a deep girth, fine sprung ribs and good head and neck. His idiosyncrasies were that he had a curious rolling gait when galloping, and that he galloped with his tongue lolling out of his mouth. He was one of the largest striding horses ever remembered, his large stride allowed him to cover 140 feet in just 16 strides. ‘‘Archer’s’’ big body told on his legs and soreness unfortunately often interfered with his training.

Little value was initially placed on the immature Archer after he performed badly in his first two races at Randwick in late May 1860. However, at the Spring Meeting of 1860 and at the autumn meeting of 1861 he won every event in which he participated winning seven New South Wales races in succession.

Even without the legends, the inaugural two mile Melbourne Cup of 7 November 1861 at Flemington was an eventful affair. Three of the seventeen starters fell during the race, two of which died; two jockeys sustained broken bones; and one horse bolted off the course, but the field raced on. At the home turn, the favourite Mormon made his run to the delight of the local crowd, but Archer ran him down. Watched by a large crowd[9] of about 4,000, Archer, a Sydney "outsider" who had been injured during training a few days before the race, and who drew scant favor in the betting, went on to spread-eagle the field and defeat the favourite, and Victorian champion, Archer by six lengths in a time of 3:52.0 – the slowest time in which a Melbourne Cup has ever been won. This is not the first time that Archer had won against Mormon, having beaten him earlier in Randwick in May over 2½ miles in the Australia Plate. In this first Melbourne Cup Archer won for de Mestre, from the prize money and the sweepstake, 710 gold sovereigns (1 sovereign = £1) and a trophy which was a hand-beaten gold watch. Prior to the race Archer had been dismissed by the bookies, and not heavily supported, but after de Mestre of Terara had made his own wager ‘‘Archer’s’’ odds shortened and he started as second favourite at 6 to 1. The winning bets on Archer took a lot of money away from Melbourne, 'refuelling interstate rivalry' and adding to the excitement of the Cup.[10] The next day, Archer went on to win another two mile race at Flemington, the Melbourne Town Plate in exactly the same time.

In May 1862 Archer won the three mile AJC Queen Elizabeth Stakes. On 7 June 1862 Archer and Exeter were shipped back to Melbourne for the second Melbourne Cup. Archer was the Cup favourite. In the lead up to the Cup Archer was sent on the railway from Melbourne to Geelong. In his first race in five months Archer ran third on 1 October in the three mile Fifth Champion Sweepstakes.

Six weeks later, on 13 November 1862, Archer won his second Melbourne Cup carrying 10st 2 lb at odds of 2 to 1 in a time of 3:47.0. The race run before a crowd of about 7,000[11], nearly double the previous years large crowd, had 20 starters, the largest field of horses ever started in Australia at that time. Again it was an exciting race. Cutts initially reigned Archer back so that he was running last by several lengths, and appeared to be out of the running. Archer then gradually passed his opponents until reaching the leaders where the long-striding horse was galloped into first place. Archer won by an amazing eight lengths, with Mormon again running second. Eight lengths is the record for a Melbourne Cup winning margin, that was not matched until over 100 years later in 1969 by Rain Lover. With a larger field meaning a larger sweepstake, Archer won for de Mestre, from the prize money and the sweepstake, 810 gold sovereigns (1 sovereign = £1) and a trophy which was a hand-beaten gold watch. Winning the Melbourne Cup two years in a row was a feat not repeated until Peter Pan won the race twice more than seventy years later. Two days later Archer won the one mile All-Aged Stakes at Flemington. Archer, Exeter, and de Mestre arrived back in Sydney on the steamer Wonga Wonga on 29 November. The following week they caught another steamer to Wollongong, and then proceeded overland the 50 miles (80 km) to "Terara".

A technicality resulted in Archer not being accepted to race in the third Melbourne Cup. Archer's telegraphed acceptance to race failed to arrive in time as delivery was delayed due to a public holiday in Melbourne, and Archer was refused permission to enter the race a third time. Nominations for the 1863 Melbourne Cup had to be lodged with the Victorian Turf Club by Wednesday 29 April, accompanied by five gold sovereigns. De Mestre had nominated two of his horses, Archer and Haidee. Weights were declared and published in the Bell's Life in Sydney on Saturday 9 May. Archer was to carry 11st 4 lb (71.82 kg) - which if he had raced would have been the heaviest handicap in the history of the Melbourne Cup. Under the care of strapper and trainer Tom Lamond Archer and Haidee steamed to Melbourne leaving Sydney on the City Of Melbourne on Tuesday 16 June. Acceptances, with a further 5 gold sovereigns, had to be lodged with the VTC by 8pm, Wednesday July 1, which de Mestre, still in Sydney, had somehow overlooked. Reminded on the morning of 1 July by Mr. Sam Jenner of George Kirk & Co. of the deadline, de Mestre requested that a telegram be sent to the Melbourne office of George Kirk & Co. asking for them to accept on his behalf. De Mestre took the telegram to the Telegraph Office himself, and it was received in Melbourne Telegraph Office at 1pm. However Wednesday 1 July was a public holiday in Melbourne, and the telegram was not able to be delivered at the George Kirk & Co. offices until 7.30pm. The next morning George Kirk handed the telegram to the stewards at the Turf Club, who decided that it was too late. This decision caused a sensation, especially amongst Archer's Sydney supporters, who had confidentially expected Archer to win. Even pressure brought to bear on the VTC by Victorian owners made no difference. Having found a way to exclude ‘‘Archer’’ the VTC stood its ground. In protest of this decision and in a show of solidarity, all the interstate entrants boycotted the third race and scratched their horses in sympathy.[12] What was unknown at the time, however, was that due to injuries Archer would later sustain in the lead up to the Cup it is unlikely that he would have been able to race. As a result of the intersate scratchings the third Melbourne Cup ran with only seven Victorian horses, the smallest number in the history of the Cup.

On 21 July de Mestre caught the steamer City of Melbourne to Melbourne to oversee the training of his horses for the Seventh Champion Sweepstakes at Ballarat on October 1. Once again John Cutts was engaged to ride Archer, and he steamed to Melbourne on 4 August aboard the Rangatira. De Mestre's horses were send from Melbourne to Ballarat on the railway. During training Archer was ill with fetlock swelling and fever necessitating veterinary care. As a consequence he did not perform well on the day. Archer's supporters were angry wanting to know why de Mestre had not pulled him from the race. In reply Rowland Hassall issued a statement to the effect that none of de Mestre's horses were public property. On October 10 it was announced that Archer had "gone in one of his legs" immediately after the race, and the next day he was scratched from all his Victorian engagements.

Taken to Sydney to prepare for the September Metropolitan Cup at Randwick, Archer was seriously injured a month before the race during a vet treatment on 10 August 1864. He survived the crisis, and as soon as he was able Archer continued with his preparations in the expectation that he would still be able to race. This was never to be, and he was scratched from the race. At the conclusion of the Randwich meeting Archer was retired from racing and returned to his owners Hassell and Roberts on "Exeter Farm" at Jembaicumbene near where he had been born. This involved a rail trip from Sydney to Campbelltown, and then an overland trip of 155 miles (250 km).

Archer was retired to stud at a fee of 10 guineas per mare, one of the highest stud fees at the time, but his progeny were unable to win a stakes race. Archer remained at "Exeter Farm" until his death at the age of 16, on 22 December 1872. He had wandered into a field of green barley, the consumption of which gave him a fatal inflammation of the lungs. Coincidentally Archer's jockey John Cutts had died just three months earlier in September 1872.

Victorian craftswoman Therese Haynes was so enamoured of the horse Archer that, late in his lifetime, she made a horseshoe ornament from his tail hair. She coiled the hair to create a horseshoe-shaped plaque, placed in a silver setting, and mounted it on red satin. Preserving relics from celebrities – a category that in Australia has often included horses – was a strong Victorian-era pastime. Today this piece of memorabilia can be found at the Australian Racing Museum in Melbourne.[13][14]

Archer’s Melbourne Cup records

Winner of the first two Melbourne Cups (1861, 1862)
For more than a century, only two horses won the Melbourne Cup twice: Archer (1861, 1862) and Peter Pan (1932, 1934).
Slowest winning time in the Melbourne Cup – 3.52.0 (1861)
First winner to carry a weight of over 10st – 10st 2 lb (1862)
Winners by the largest margin – 8 lengths (1862) and Rain Lover in 1968
First non-favourite to win (1861)
First favourite to win (1862)
First past winner to be denied a starting place (1863)

Race record

u/k = unknown
s = gold sovereign
1s = £1
1 mile = 1.6 km

Age Date Track Race Distance
Jockey Handicap Field
Place Time Prize
+ Sweepstake Archer’s
3yo 29.05.1860 Randwick Tattersall’s
Free Handicap
1 ¾ John Cutts 7st 5 lb
(46.82 kg)
13 Unplaced u/k u/k u/k Nil
" 31.05.1860 Randwick Randwick Plate 1 ½ John Cutts u/k u/k Unplaced u/k u/k u/k Nil
4yo 06.09.1860 Randwick Metropolitan
Maiden Plate
1 ¾ John Cutts u/k 6 1st u/k 150s 5s x ? nominations
?s x ? acceptances
?s x ? starters
" 08.09.1860 Randwick Randwick Plate 1 ½ John Cutts 9st 5 lb
(59.55 kg)
2 1st u/k 100s u/k u/k
" 25.09.1860 Windsor Hawkesbury
Maiden Plate
1 ¾ John Cutts u/k 5 1st u/k u/k u/k u/k
" 27.09.1860 Windsor Stewards Purse 1 ¼ John Cutts 9st 4 lb
(59.09 kg)
2 1st u/k u/k u/k u/k
" 02.05.1861 Randwick Australian Plate 2 ½ John Cutts u/k u/k 1st u/k u/k u/k u/k
" 04.05.1861 Randwick Randwick Plate 1 ½ John Cutts u/k u/k 1st u/k 100s u/k u/k
" 04.06.1861 Maitland Maitland
Town Plate
2 ½ Etienne
de Mestre[15]
u/k 2 1st u/k u/k u/k u/k
5yo 07.11.1861 Flemington Melbourne Cup 2 John Cutts 9st 7lbs
17 1st 3.52.0 200s[16] 5s x 57 nominations
+5s x ? acceptances

+10s x 17 starters

+ gold watch
" 08.11.1861 Flemington Melbourne
Town Plate
2 John Cutts 9st 13 lb
(63.18 kg)
5 1st 3.52.0 100s u/k u/k
" 26.04.1862 Randwick Randwick
Grand Handicap
2 ½ John Cutts u/k 13 3rd u/k 250s 5s x ? nominations
+ 5s x ? acceptances

+ 10s x 13 starters

" 03.05.1862 Randwick AJC Queen’s Plate 3 John Cutts 10st
(63.64 kg)
u/k 1st u/k u/k u/k u/k
6yo 01.10.1862 Geelong Fifth Champion
3 John Cutts 10st 1 lb
(64.09 kg)
9 3rd u/k u/k u/k u/k
" 13.11.1862 Flemington Melbourne Cup 2 John Cutts 10st 2 lb
20 1st 3.47.0 200s 5s x ? nominations
+ 5s x ? acceptances

+ 10s x 20 starters

+ gold watch
" 15.11.1862 Flemington All-Aged Stakes 1 John Cutts 10st 4 lb
(65.45 kg)
u/k 1st 1.50.0 u/k u/k u/k
7yo 01.10.1863 Ballarat Seventh Champion
3 John Cutts u/k 5 3rd u/k 1000s 20s x 5 starters
+ ? nominations
& acceptances
" 3.11.1863 Flemington Melbourne Cup 2 11st 4 lb
(71.82 kg)


  1. Barrie, Douglas M., The Australian Bloodhorse, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1956
  2. First Tuesday in November: the story of the Melbourne Cup by D.L.Bernstein, Heinemann [Melbourne] (1969)
  3. The Land, December 8, 1983, Letter from Richard William Royds, Durham Hall
  4. Sydney Morning Herald 2008 - Archer took the boat
  5. 5.0 5.1 Interview with John Patrick Molyneux Royds in First Tuesday in November: the story of the Melbourne Cup by D.L.Bernstein, Heinemann [Melbourne] (1969)
  6. Also records in the Mitchell Library in Sydney.
  7. Newspaper report on the sinking of the SS City of Melbourne
  8. Ode to Archer
  9. The attendance was the largest at Flemington on any day for the past two years, with the exception of the recently run Two Thousand Guinea Stakes.
  10. Australian Government - Culture and recreation - Melbourne Cup
  11. On This Day In Shoalhaven
  12. Australian Racing Museum - E de Mestre
  13. The Age: From the horse's mouth
  14. Race against uneven odds
  15. John Cutts was on the other de Mestre horse in this two horse race.
  16. “The history of the Cup dates back to 1861, the resultant brain child of Captain Frederick Standish, one time VRC Chairman and former Chief Commissioner of Police in Victoria. As a former member of the Victoria Turf Club he conceptually founded the great race with the club committed to offering modest prize-money and a hand beaten gold watch. The conditions for the race would state "a sweepstakes of 20 sovereigns" (starters)", 10 sovereigns forfeit” (acceptance) “or 5 sovereigns if declared" (nominated)", with 200 sovereigns added money." Flemington Racetrack

Major Reference

  • The Masters Touch, Racing with Etienne de Mestre, Winner of 5 Melbourne Cups by Keith W. Paterson, Published by Keith W. Paterson [Nowra] (2008) (ISBN 978-0-646-50028-7)

Other references

External links


Premier Equine Classifieds


Subscribe to our newsletter and keep abreast of the latest news, articles and information delivered directly to your inbox.

Did You Know?

Modern horse breeds developed in response to a need for "form to function", the necessity to develop certain physical characteristics in order to perform a certain type of work... More...

The Gypsy Cob was originally bred to be a wagon horse and pulled wagons or caravans known as Vardos; a type of covered wagon that people lived in... More...

Archaeological evidence indicates that the Arabian horse bloodline dates back 4,500 years. Throughout history, Arabian horses spread around the world by both war and trade.... More...

That the term "Sporthorse" is a term used to describe a type of horse rather than any particular breed... More...