The Blood of Sappho
Featured Image: George Lee (1834-1912) Breeder of Nellie
Douglas M Barrie, The Australian Bloodhorse (Angus and Robertson, Sydney: 1956)
My late ultra-conservative father-in-law Bob Mackay waxed lyrical and passionately about the tap root brood mare Sappho. This was unusual for him. However he was immensely proud that his great Polo Sire ‘Panzer’ traced back to her on the distaff side. He also praised in passing ‘Etra Weenie’ and ‘Diffidence’; her descendent daughters. He was right. This is the story of ‘Sappho’ who has a close connection to the Hunter valley through the Scott Brothers of ‘Glendon’ Singleton and also George and William Lee of Bathurst/Bylong.
Family C-1: Sappho
This is one of the most numerous and successful colonial families in Australia, through Saphho the Younger. Notable descendants: Etra Weenie (1889), Diffidence (1865), Kingsborough (1871), Lawrence (1940), Lecturer, Meriwee, Powerscourt
This is a prolific and successful family with descendants still winning stakes races throughout Australasia. The taproot mare, Sappho, was a grey, born in 1847, by the native-bred Marquis (1837), and out of a grey mare by the grey Zohrab (1832), the latter a son of the imported bay Rous’ Emigrant (1822, by Pioneer) and from the grey mare Gulnare (1822, imported 1830), by Young Gohanna (by the sturdy Gohanna). Zohrab was an important early thoroughbred stallion with significant influence as a broodmare sire.
Sappho’s dam, by Zohrab, and her dam, identified only as a brown mare whose pedigree was lost, were probably born around 1840 in the Camden Park Stud of the Macarthur family. John Macarthur, a pioneer sheep breeder, imported a number of horses from England. He also owned Washington, an important early sire thought to be from a shipment of Spanish-Eastern bloodhorses sent from New England (USA) to the Cape of Good Hope at the close of the eighteenth century, and imported into Australia in 1800. According to Barrie,* by the 1820s Camden Stud had over 100 horses derived from English thoroughbred and arabian ancestry, but records of these “beautiful and valuable horses,” if kept, were lost.
Sappho’s sire, Marquis, was bred at the influential Hunter valley stud, Glendon, operated by the brothers Robert Scott and Helenus Scott. He was out of the native-bred My Lady, (1832, by imported Trumpet), and by Dover (1832, by Patron-Maid of Kent), who had been imported by the Scotts in 1836. Marquis became a foundation stallion in the famous Bylong Stud owned by the Lee family. Marquis also figures prominently in the Colonial families of the Steeltrap mare (C – 16), Adeline (C – 6), The Young English mare (C – 9), and Jewess (C-31), and indirectly in several other colonial families developed at the Lee studs.
Sappho herself was born at the Bylong Stud of William Lee, one of the first settlers in the Bathurst district of New South Wales, whose holdings, upon his death in 1870 covered over 18,000 acres, excluding the tens of thousands of station acres held by his various sons. In the ASB, the then thirteen-year-old George Lee, his sixth son, is credited as the breeder of Sappho. Both George and his elder brother, John, became among the most influential of NSW thoroughbred breeders in the mid and late nineteenth century, and three other brothers, Thomas, James and Edward had an interest in bloodstock breeding and racing.