Carbine (1885–1914), was an outstanding New Zealand bred Thoroughbred racehorse, who competed in New Zealand and later Australia. During his racing career he won 30 stakes or principal races. Owing to his performance on the track and his subsequent achievements as a sire, he became one of five inaugural inductees into both the New Zealand Racing Hall of Fame and the Australian Racing Hall of Fame.
Carbine was foaled at Sylvia Park Stud near Auckland, New Zealand on 18 September 1885. He was a bay stallion by the English Ascot Stakes winner and successful sire Musket out of the imported mare Mersey (GB) by Knowsley. Carbine was inbred to Brown Bess in the third and fourth generations. He was a half-brother to the stakes winning stallion, Carnage, winner of the VRC Victoria Derby, AJC Champagne Stakes, VRC Spring Stakes and VRC Essendon Stakes. When fully mature, Carbine stood about 16 hands 1 inch in height, possessed good conformation and temperament, although he had some foibles.
During his career on the race track, Carbine started 43 times for 33 wins, six seconds and three thirds, failing to place only once due to a badly split hoof. He was popular with racing fans, and sporting commentators of the day praised him for his gameness, versatility, stamina and weight-carrying ability, as well as for his speed.
Carbine, nicknamed Old Jack, was undefeated in five starts in top-class races as a two-year-old in New Zealand. He then was taken to Australia, where he won nine of 13 starts as a three-year-old. One highlight that year was his win in the AJC Sydney Cup of 2 miles (3,220 metres) carrying 12 lb (5.5 kg) over weight-for-age. Despite suffering interference at the half-mile post and being buffeted back to last place, Carbine won by a head in a record time of 3 min 31 s. (Race times were slower in Carbine's era than now due, among other factors, to the rough state of tracks and the upright posture in the saddle assumed by 19th-century jockeys.) At the end of his three-year-old racing season, Carbine was sold by his owner-trainer Dan O'Brien for 3,000 guineas and prepared by his new owners for racing in Sydney and Melbourne.
As a four- and five-year-old, Carbine won 17 of what would prove to be his last 18 races. On four occasions Carbine won twice on the same day. His victory in the 1890 Melbourne Cup was noteworthy. He set a weight-carrying record of 10 st 5 lb (66 kg) in the Cup, defeating a field of 39 starters and setting a record time for the race. He carried 53 lb (24 kg) more than the second-place horse, Highborn.
Carbine was owned for most of his Australian career by Donald Wallace, a wealthy horse-breeder, investor, and Member of the Victorian Parliament. Walter Hickenbotham, a prominent Melbourne-based horseman, trained him. Wallace and Hickenbotham planned to enter Carbine in the 1891 Melbourne Cup and other major events of that year's turf calendar but a chronic heel injury thwarted their intentions, and Carbine was retired to Wallace's stud.
Carbine proved his stud potential the following year, 1892, by siring a colt named Wallace, who went on to become an exceptionally good racehorse and sire. Wallace was considered the best of Carbine's Australian-bred progeny. He won the VATC Caulfield Guineas, Victoria Derby, Sydney Cup and other good races. Despite limited stud opportunities Wallace was the Leading sire in Australia in the 1915/16 season. Wallace also finished second three times and third three times on the leading sires' table. During Carbine's short Australian stud career he sired the winners of 203½ races worth ₤48,624, including the multiple stakes winners, Amberite (won Victoria Derby and Caulfield Cup etc.) and La Carabine (Sydney Cup and VRC Australian Cup etc.).
In 1895, the Duke of Portland purchased Carbine for 13,000 guineas. He was shipped from Melbourne to the Duke's English stud at Welbeck Abbey where he was the second stud sire to the outstanding St. Simon, who covered the best mares. A son of Carbine, Greatorex, was a minor race winner in England before he was exported to South Africa, where he became a leading sire on ten occasions and influenced bloodlines there. Carbine sired Spearmint, the 1906 Epsom Derby and 1906 Grand Prix de Paris winner. Spearmint in turn sired Spion Kop, who also won the Epsom Derby. Spion Kop's offspring included another Derby winner, Felstead. Felstead's son, The Buzzard, later stood at stud in Australia. The wheel of history turned full circle when two of The Buzzard's offspring, Old Rowley and Rainbird, each won the Melbourne Cup, in 1940 and 1945, respectively. Spearmint was the sire of American three-year-old champion, Johren, foaled in 1915 in England and exported to America as a yearling. Johren was the winner of the 1918 Belmont Stakes and was awarded the American Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year.
Over half of the 65 Melbourne Cup winners from 1914 to 1978 were descendants of Carbine, including Comic Court, Phar Lap, Rising Fast, Rain Lover and Think Big. Statistics and contemporary assessments indicate that he was a dominant antipodean racehorse of the 19th century, and he still ranks with such 20th-century Thoroughbreds as his descendants Danzig, Nearco, Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Nasrullah, Nijinsky II (winner of the UK Triple Crown), Royal Charger and Royal Palace (who have established their own sire-lines) in terms of renown among turf historians.
The descendants of Carbine include eight of the nine horses to earn $10,000,000 or more in stakes wins. These horses are Deep Impact, Makybe Diva, Narita Brian, Sunline, Symboli Kris S, T M Opera O, Viva Pataca and Vodka. Modern day competitors Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra trace to Carbine through both their sire and dam.
Carbine died at Welbeck on 10 June 1914. He had suffered a stroke and was put down with a drug to end his suffering, according to the horse's 'biographer', Grania Polliness. The Duke of Portland gave his skeleton to the Melbourne Museum. Today it is displayed at the Australian Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Melbourne. Carbine's combined record of documented success as both a racehorse and an international sire is possibly unequalled by any other Australasian Thoroughbred.
Carbine had his portrait painted by the noted equine artist, Martin Stainforth and it was reproduced in Racehorses in Australia.
Carbine's mounted head and tail are in the collection of the Auckland War Memorial Museum