1 September 2004

Collectables: Carbine upstages auction heavyweights

Sales of racehorse art often ride on the animal rather than the artist, as the auction of a portrait of the great Carbine attests.

Carbine, the 1890 Melbourne Cup winner and the greatest racehorse to grace the ­Australian turf before Phar Lap, made a brief return to the spotlight last week – as Lot 62 at Sotheby’s Sydney sale of fine Australian art.

The handsome, if flattering, portrait of “Old Jack” was painted by Frederick ­William Woodhouse snr in 1891, the year Carbine retired from racing and began an influential stud career. The work stood out like a beacon in a catalogue clogged with the usual quality saleroom fare of Olsens, Boyds, Blackmans, Smarts and Co.

After a brief bidding war, the painting was knocked down for $34,000 against an upper saleroom estimate of $20,000 to horse breeder Grahame Mapp, owner of Hobartville Stud near Richmond, NSW, reputedly Australia’s oldest thoroughbred stud. With buyer’s premium and GST, the price tag was $41,095, the second-highest price for a Woodhouse, according to Australian Art Sales Digest, which also notes the Englishman arrived in Australia in 1857 and painted every winner of the Melbourne Cup from 1861 to 1890.