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Blue Mountain, Owner, Trainer, Jockey, James Scobie
, 1887

by Frederick Woodhouse

oil on canvas (frame: 59.8 cm x 76.2 cm depth 6.8 cm, support: 45.5 cm x 61.0 cm)

James Scobie (1860–1940), horse trainer, was born at Ararat, Victoria, and at age 20 he rode his first metropolitan jumping winner at Ballarat. From 1882 to 1893 he trained and rode the winners of major races, including the prestigious four-mile Grand National Steeplechase which he won in 1887 on his horse Blue Mountain – a stallion Scobie considered ‘vile tempered’ but also ‘the best thing I ever had through my hands’. Between 1900 and 1939 his horses took out four Melbourne Cups and eight Victoria Racing Club Derbies as well as numerous other titles. Scobie was known for his exacting and attentive attitude to horse training and he continued training almost until his death. His autobiography, My Life on the Australian Turf, was published in 1929.

Frederick Woodhouse produced portraits of every Melbourne Cup winner from 1861 to 1891, his paintings often being engraved for reproduction in illustrated papers. His success diminished, however, as photography grew in popularity. ‘A Melbourne Cup always meant £100 to me’, he once said, ‘but photography knocked me out. Now an owner can get a picture of his horse in a sixpenny weekly, or for nothing – wrapped around the meat’.

Collection: National Portrait Gallery
Purchased 2008
Accession number: 2008.106