While inaugural Melbourne Cup-winning trainer Etienne Livingston de Mestre's name is forever etched into Australian history books, his first family has for over 150 years been hidden.
We've always wanted to find out more about who the de Mestres were.Cobargo's Joy Kelly
At the time de Mestre's top horse Archer was busy winning the first two Cups in 1861 and 1862 he had started a young family with an Indigenous woman from Nowra called Sarah Lamb. While little is known about Sarah, the couple's daughter, Helen de Mestre, made a life for herself at Wallaga Lake.
Helen's great-granddaughter Joy Kelly said "it's about time" the public was told about a relationship that was considered unacceptable due to racism, but was common knowledge within the Indigenous community.
"We've always wanted to find out more about who the de Mestres were, and where they come from," Ms Kelly said at her home in Cobargo alongside her husband Barry and son Rodney.
Helen de Mestre married a Chinese market gardener named James Ahoy, and the couple had three children, which included Joy's grandmother Gwendoline Linno Mary Ahoy.
"We always knew about Granny Linno. We would always visit and I remember she looked Chinese," Joy said.
Granny Linno gave birth to Joy's father, Gubbo Ted Thomas, who campaigned tirelessly along with others for the protection of sacred sites on the South Coast. He visited the United Nations in New York, met the Dalai Lama and gave workshops on his culture in the US, Canada, Britain and Scotland.
Along with John Tait, Etienne de Mestre is the only other owner to win four Melbourne Cups.
A statue of him, along with his prize-winning horse Archer and jockey Johnny Cutts, is in the planning to be erected in the middle of Nowra, where he trained his winning horses.
The plan was devised by Shoalhaven City Council in collaboration with Shoalhaven City Turf Club, and the club said it is hoping enough funds will be raised to have the statue completed before the 2020 Melbourne Cup.
"It would be good to have the Elders involved in anything like a statue going up or Melbourne Cup celebrations," Rodney said.
"We've always talked about him training the first Melbourne Cup winner, and we want to meet the rest of the family, then they will know more about who we are.
"They need to learn about us, and we need to learn about them."
Barry said the true history has been kept secret, with potentially hundreds of residents along the South Coast carrying the name Thomas, Bond and Ahoy connected by blood to the "race that stops a nation".
"A lot of white fellas wouldn't acknowledge the relationships they had through the day. It was a night time thing," Barry said.
"We feel the Aboriginal side, which was his first family, is not being recognised.
"You can't sweep it under the carpet."
Helen kept the de Mestre name, even after marrying and having a later childless relationship with Wallaga Lake resident Sam Haddigaddi.
"Etienne must've been living with Sarah for a while, and left an impression on Helen. He must've loved her," Barry said.
"If you love someone different, then and now, it doesn't matter. People shouldn't be racist.
"These days everyone is marrying, and nobody says anything. back then it was taboo which is why there was lots of sneaking around at night.
"All of the de Mestres should be happy about the connection."
Etienne had further links to the Wallaga Lake community, with resident Robert Curran, who was also known as Bally Rocket, becoming one of de Mestre's star jockeys.
Rocket was lauded for his skillful riding of de Mestre's "lovely jet black mare" known as Sweet Water.