THE Shoalhaven could soon have a life-sized statue of the winner of the first two Melbourne Cups, the locally trained Archer, if Shoalhaven City Turf Club CEO Lynn Locke has her way.
Mrs Locke presented the proposal to build a memorial to Archer featuring his owner and trainer Etienne de Mestre and jockey John Cutts to the Shoalhaven City Council meeting on Tuesday night.
Mrs Locke said the memorial should be in a prominent Nowra location, possibly at the Shoalhaven Entertainment Centre and could become a tourist attraction in its own right.
“It was mentioned during the recent visit by the Melbourne Cup, the area was sitting on an goldmine if it promoted itself as the home of Archer, the winner of the first Melbourne Cup and de Mestre, who won five Melbourne cups,” she said.
During the visit well-known radio race commentator, Bryan Martin said: “In the eyes of many, the inaugural Melbourne Cup winner, Archer, is the forgotten horse of the Melbourne Cup”.
He said following the retirement of the mighty mare Black Caviar the township in which she trained, Nagambie, erected a full size memorial of that horse, which had become a significant tourist attraction.
“It could be a major tourism attraction for the area and a continuing source of civic pride,” Mrs Locke said.
Council unanimously supported a motion put forward by councillors John Wells and Alan Baptist to support the turf club’s project to develop the memorial, saying the sculpture could be deemed an art project and form part of council’s art collection.
“It could be paid for by funds collected through government and corporate sponsorship and public subscription,” Mrs Locke said.
It is estimated the bronze statue could cost up to $300,000.
“The de Mestre family is keen on the proposal and has already indicated they would donate towards the project,” Mrs Locke said.
Archer won the first Melbourne Cup in 1861 and the second in 1862.
Ettiene de Mestre trained him at Terara and went on to win five Melbourne Cups.
Along with Lee Freedman he is second only to the “Cups King” the late Bart Cummings with 12.
De Mestre also scored wins with Tim Whiffler (1867), Chester (1877) and Calamia (1878).
His five wins in the first 18 years of the cup’s history was a record for the most wins by a trainer that stood for almost 100 years. It wasn’t broken until 1977 by Cummings.
A huge horse, Archer stood 16.3 hands as a three-year-old and due to that size suffered continuing leg problems and was lightly raced, having started only 17 times, winning 12 races and being placed in three.
As well as the two Melbourne Cups, he won the Randwick Plate 1860, Stewards Purse 1860, Australian Plate 1861, Randwick Plate 1861, Maitland Town Plate 1861, Melbourne Town Plate 1861, AJC Queens Plate 1862 and All-Aged Stakes 1862.
It’s not the first time it has been proposed to build a memorial to Archer in the local area.
In 1990, the Nowra Chamber of Commerce, under the presidency of Ian Strathie proposed a similar project.
A model was developed by artist and sculptor Dennis Adams, depicting Mrs de Mestre feeding Archer.
“The cost from memory back then was about $30,000 and we had 30 businesses ready to go, each donating $1000 to have the statue built,” Mr Strathie said.
“Our biggest stumbling block was finding an appropriate location and the project petered out.”
Marriott Park and more recently around the Graham Lodge precinct were location suggestions.
The statue of Mrs de Mestre feeding Archer is currently housed at the Worrigee House Reception Centre, owned by the Bennett family.
The statue and the 1988 Dennis Adams’ painting on which it is based take pride of place in the Elizabeth Room in the reception centre.
Mr Strathie said he would love to see the statue finally constructed.
“It would be great for the area and would definitely be a tourist attraction,” he said.