In the very early days of colonisation the ‘new age of fast transport’ (and communication) depended entirely on the best available horses. For the first settlers and subsequent squatters it wasn’t all about personal gratification or self-aggrandisement. It was hard-nosed perspicacious business acumen. In America it has been defined as: ‘Be best; be biggest; be first’. Since about 1800 it boiled down to who owned the ‘best and fastest’ most reliable means of conveyance.
Not much had happened before 1800. The initial seven ‘Capers’ introduced in January 1788 with the first fleet were found to be slow and cumbersome. It was not until the smart entrepreneurs began to move fast twenty years later that things started to improve rapidly. ‘Northumberland’ (UK) and ‘Washington’ (USA) were among the first thoroughbreds to be introduced in 1800 and 1802. About the same time a high quality bay Arab stallion was imported to NSW from Calcutta. This was ‘Hector’ or ‘Old Hector’; at one time the property of Arthur Wellesley later Duke of Wellington. He was the most outstanding sire during the first decade of Australian racing. The inaugural meeting was held in Hyde Park in 1810. Governor Macquarie was obliged to attend although opposed to the concept on religious grounds. The Governor was a Free Presbyterian from the Isle of Skye.
Following Wentworth, Blaxland and Lawson’s successful foray over the Blue Mountains everything opened up. It is possible even highly probable that Cox and Howe rode the progeny of Hector in foraging their way from Windsor into the Hunter Valley via the ‘Great North Road’ from 1813 onwards. His colour might be a clue. Many very successful lines of early Walers were solid or light bay in colour. The Scrumlo Saladin stock horses were a good example. With access to the best available means of covering the vast expanses the ‘squatters’ were up and running.
The first Australian-bred stallion advertised for duty was Captain Piper’s Young Northumberland. He stood from 1804 at Hassall’s stables at Parramatta. His owner was steward for the first Sydney Jockey Club and Point Piper takes its name from him. Captain Piper later left the coast for his “Alloway Bank” Estate near Bathurst, where he settled for the rest of his life.
Rival for Northumberland was Campbell’s Hector, who was a great acquisition to the colony. His blood survives in maternal families. De La Salle traces back to a Hector mare.
Hector stood first in Sydney, at Campbell’s yard in Bligh Street where the Union Club, the AJC and Stud Book Keeper’s Offices are today (1953). His later owner, Mr D’Arcy Wentworth, was the father of W. C. Wentworth, explorer and statesman. Hector’s next habitat was the “Home Bush Farm” where the Sydney Abattoirs are today (1953; now Sydney Olympic Park). It is possible that horses used in the first Blue Mountains crossing were progeny of Hector and Northumberland.