Who was Fred Archer?

Frederick James ‘Fred’ Archer was a legendary Victorian jockey whose life came to a tragic end, at his own hand, on November 8, 1886, at the age of 29. On the day after the second anniversary of the death of his wife, Nellie Rose, during childbirth, deliriously ill with typhoid fever and ‘in a state of unsound mind’, Archer shot himself with a revolver in his bedroom at Falmouth House, Newmarket.

Neverthless, ‘The Tin Man’, as Archer was known, won the jockeys’ title 13 years running between 1874 and 1886 and still jointly holds the record, alongside Elnathan ‘Nat’ Flatman, for the most consecutive titles. All told, he rode 2,748 winners, including 246 winners in a single season in 1885, thereby setting records that would stand until the inimitable Sir Gordon Richards rose to prominence decades later.

Unusually tall for a jockey at 5’10” – interestingly, the same height as Sir Anthony McCoy – Archer faced a constant battle with his weight in his later years and was forced into a Draconian regime of starvation diet, Turkish baths and purgatives, which ultimately contributed to his demise. Nevertheless, having eventually succeeded the equally ill-fated Tom French as stable jockey to Matthew Dawson in 1875, he went on to win the St. Leger six times, the Derby five times, the 2,000 Guineas and the Oaks four times apiece and the 1,000 Guineas twice, for a total of 21 British Classic winners.