Sir Archie and the North Carolina Roots of Thoroughbred Racing

A painting of Sir Archie now held by UNC-Chapel Hill Libraries.On July 7, 1833Sir Archie, arguably the greatest thoroughbred in North Carolina history, died at the age of 28.

Sir Archie was the foundation sire of champions Timoleon, Man O’War, Seabiscuit and Secretariat. In the era before Kentucky became the nation’s center of horse racing and equine culture, North Carolina established a considerable reputation. For several generations Virginia and North Carolina horses dominated tracks throughout the country.

Foaled in Cumberland County, Virginia, Sir Archie came to the attention of the nation’s first great trainer, Warrenton’s William Ransom Johnson at an early age. Johnson bought the horse for $1,500 and described him as “the best horse I have ever seen.” After Sir Archie won races in Richmond and Petersburg, Johnson was hard pressed to find competition.


In 1809, former governor and UNC founder William R. Davie purchased the horse for $5,000 and soon thereafter put him out to stud. Sir Archie’s offspring became the next generation of champion thoroughbreds. From 1817 to 1833 he was quartered at the “Mowfield” plantation in Northampton County, and he is buried on the grounds there.


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