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Eclipse (horse)

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Eclipse (horse)

For the American thoroughbred racehorse born 1814 see American Eclipse.
Eclipse (by George Stubbs)
Sire Marske
Grandsire Squirt
Dam Spilletta
Damsire Regulus
Sex Stallion
Foaled 1 April 1764
Country Great Britain
Colour Chestnut
Breeder Duke of Cumberland
Owner William Wildman
Dennis O'Kelly
Trainer Sullivan
Record 18 starts, 18 wins (plus 7 heats)[1]
Earnings 2,149 guineas
Major wins
Winchester King's Plate (1769)
Salisbury King's Plate (1769)
Canterbury King's Plate (1769)
Lewes King's Plate (1769)
Lichfield King's Plate (1769)
Match race against Bucephalus (1770)
Newmarket First Spring King's Plate (1770)
Guilford King's Plate (1770)
Nottingham King's Plate (1770)
York King's Plate (1770)
6yo+ Great Subscription Purse (1770)
Lincoln Heath King's Plate (1770)
Newmarket October King's Plate (1770)
Eclipse Stakes at Sandown Park (GB)
Prix Eclipse at Maisons-Laffitte (France)
The Eclipse Awards (USA)
Last updated on 29 October 2012

Eclipse (1 April 1764 – 26 February 1789) was an outstanding, undefeated 18th-century British Thoroughbred racehorse who won 18 races, including 11 King's Plates. After retiring from racing he became a very successful sire.


Eclipse was foaled during and named after the solar eclipse of 1 April 1764, at the Cranbourne Lodge Stud of his breeder, Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland.[2] It was at this stud that his sire, the Jockey Club Plate winner, Marske (by Squirt from The Ruby Mare) stood, his dam, Spiletta (foaled 1749) was by Regulus, by the Godolphin Arabian. Eclipse was a brother to the successful broodmare, Proserpine. They were inbred to Snake in the fourth generation (4m x 4f) of their pedigree. After the death of Prince William in 1765, Eclipse was sold for 75 guineas to a sheep dealer from Smithfield, William Wildman.

Racing career

Eclipse started racing at the age of five on 3 May 1769 in Epsom. After his second victory in a race in May 1769 the Irish adventurer Colonel Dennis O'Kelly purchased Eclipse in two parts (50 percent in June 1769 for 650 guineas, 50 percent in April 1770 for 1,100 guineas).[3] Supposedly, at this time Captain Denis O'Kelly used the famous phrase "Eclipse first and the rest nowhere," before making his bets for this race. At that time, a horse that was more than 240 yards behind the lead was said to be nowhere. His jockey was John Oakley, supposedly the only jockey who could handle Eclipse's temperamental manner and running style of holding his nose very close to the ground. Eclipse won the race easily.[3]

Eclipse won 18 races, including 11 King's Plates, supposedly without ever being fully extended and proving far superior to all competition.[3] During this time he raced over 63 miles and walked 1,400 miles to race meetings across England.[1]

Eclipse is still remembered in the phrase "Eclipse first and the rest nowhere", snowcloned as "[name of competitor] first and the rest nowhere," referring to any dominating victory. This phrase is occasionally seen in American print media (most often in newspaper sport sections) but is more common in Britain.

He is attested to have covered 83 feet per second at top speed, which would equate to 25 feet in a single stride.[4]

Race record

Date Race name Dist (miles) Course Prize Odds Runners Place Runner-up
3 May 1769 £50 Race 4 Epsom Downs 050 £50 0.25 1/4 5 1
29 May 1769 £50 Plate 2 Ascot 050 £50 0.125 1/8 2 1 Creme de Barbade
13 June 1769 King's Plate 4 Winchester 105100 gns 1.25 5/4 5 1
15 June 1769 50 Guinea Plate Winchester 05350 gns N/A 1 1 Walkover
28 June 1769 King's Plate Salisbury 105100 gns N/A 1 1 Walkover
29 June 1769 City Silver Bowl 4 Salisbury 03130 gns 0.1 1/10 3 1
25 July 1769 King's Plate Canterbury 105100 gns N/A 1 1 Walkover
27 July 1769 King's Plate 4 Lewes 105100 gns 0.1 1/10 2 1 Kingston
19 September 1769 King's Plate 3 Lichfield 0.05 1/20 2 1 Tardy
17 April 1770 Match race Newmarket 0.67 4/6 2 1 Bucephalus
19 April 1770 King's Plate 3.5 Newmarket 420400 gns 0.1 1/10 4 1 Diana
5 June 1770 King's Plate Guilford N/A 1 1 Walkover
3 July 1770 King's Plate Nottingham N/A 1 1 Walkover
20 August 1770 King's Plate York N/A 1 1 Walkover
23 August 1770 Subscription Purse 4 York 319£319 0.05 1/20 3 1
3 September 1770 King's Plate Lincoln Heath 105100 gns N/A 1 1 Walkover
3 October 1770 150 Guineas Race Newmarket 157150 gns 0.014 1/70 2 1 Corsican
4 October 1770 King's Plate Newmarket N/A 1 1 Walkover


Stud record

In 1771, Eclipse was retired to stud after a racing career of about 17 months due to lack of competition as nobody was betting on rival horses. Initially he stood at O'Kelly's Clay Hill Stud, near Epsom (Surrey), for a fee of 10 guineas which rose rapidly to 25 and then to 50 guineas a mare. During 1788, he was relocated to Cannons Stud, Edgware (Middlesex).[3]

Overall, Eclipse sired 344 winners of more than ₤158,000[6] (although the number varies with different reports, ranging from 325 to 400).[3]

Notable progeny

s = stallion, m = mare

Foaled Name Sex Major Wins
1772 Planet s Jockey Club Plate, Weights and Scales Plate, 1200 Guineas Stakes
1773 Pot-8-Os s 1200 Guineas Stakes, Clermont Cup (x3), Jockey Club Plate (x3), Newmarket Whip (x2), Craven Stakes
1774 Jupiter s
1774 Satellite s Guildford King's Plate, Winchester King's Plate
1775 King Fergus s
1778 Joe Andrews s
1778 Mercury s Lewes King's Plate
1778 Young Eclipse s Epsom Derby
1780 Dungannon s Craven Stakes
1780 Saltram s Epsom Derby
1780 Volunteer s 1200 Guineas Stakes, Cumberland Subscription Stakes
1781 Serjeant s Epsom Derby, 1200 Guineas Stakes
1782 Alexander s
1784 Annette m Epsom Oaks
1784 Don Quixote s
1784 Pegasus s Macaroni Stakes

Eclipse's daughters produced Archduke, Chanticleer, Haphazard, John Bull, Meteora, Phoenomenon, Skyscraper, Stamford, Tartar, Weasel, and Remembrancer.[7]

He was never the leading sire in Great Britain and Ireland, although he finished in second place 11 times, usually behind Herod. The Royal Veterinary College determined in 1970 that nearly 80% of Thoroughbred racehorses had Eclipse in their pedigree.[1] That percentage has naturally increased with time and the inevitable inbreeding in the Thoroughbred population. More recently, it has been estimated that Eclipse is not only somewhere in the pedigree, but a tail-male ancestor of "95pc of contemporary thoroughbreds"[8] or of "nearly every living thoroughbred."[2]


Eclipse died due to an attack of colic on 27 February 1789, at the age of 24. His skeleton is now housed at the Royal Veterinary College, Hertfordshire, in the Learning Resource Centre named after him, although it cannot be said for certain whether all the bones displayed are really from Eclipse. His hooves were made into inkstands, although the fact that there are at least five Eclipse-hoof inkstands casts some doubt on the authenticity of some. Hairs from his tail have also been used for decorations.[9]

A necropsy on Eclipse found that he had an abnormally large heart (weighing 14 lbs). This trait, referred to in the context of thoroughbreds as the "X-Factor"[10] has been seen occasionally in his descendants, including Secretariat and Phar Lap.


The Eclipse Awards are American Thoroughbred horse-racing awards named after Eclipse. They honour the champions of the sport, and are sponsored by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers Association, who select all finalists at the end of the year. The most prestigious of these Awards is the Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year title.

The Eclipse Stakes is a Group 1 flat race in the United Kingdom for three-year-olds and older run over a distance of 1¼ miles and 7 yards (2,018 metres) at Sandown Park.

Eclipse Press is the book-publishing division of Blood-Horse Publications, an international publishing house for top Thoroughbred and general equine magazines, books, videos, CD-ROMs and annual references.

Sheffield-based Eclipse tools, now part of Spear & Jackson, took their name and their Eclipse first... slogan in 1909 from the horse.

The life story of Eclipse inspired the novel O'Kelly's Eclipse by screenwriter Arthur Weiss.

Nicholas Clee's Eclipse: The Story of the Rogue, the Madam and the Horse That Changed Racing[8] is a biography of Eclipse and of the people connected to him, among them the gambler Dennis O'Kelly and the brothel madam Charlotte Hayes. Other biographies of Eclipse include Michael Church's Eclipse: The Horse, The Race, The Awards (2000), and Theodore Cook's 1907 book Eclipse and O'Kelly.

Contrary to popular belief, the Mitsubishi Eclipse was named for the racehorse, and not for the natural phenomenon.


Pedigree of Eclipse, chestnut stallion, 1764
Marske (GB)
br. 1750
ch. 1732
Bartlett's Childers
b. 1716
Darley Arabian
b. c1700
Betty Leedes
Sister to Old Country Wench Snake*
Grey Wilkes
The Ruby Mare Blacklegs Hutton's Bay Turk
Coneyskins mare
Bay Bolton mare Bay Bolton
Fox Cub mare
Spilletta (GB)
b. 1749
ch. 1739
Godolphin Arabian
b. c.1724
Grey Robinson Bald Galloway
Sister to Old Country Wench
Mother Western Easby Snake Snake*
Akaster Turk mare
Old Montagu mare Old Montagu
Hautboy mare (Family: 12)[11]

Note: b. = Bay, ch. = Chestnut, br. = Brown

* Eclipse was inbred 4x4 to Snake. This means that the stallion appears twice in the fourth generation of his pedigree.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Ahnert, Rainer L. (editor in chief), “Thoroughbred Breeding of the World”, Pozdun Publishing, Germany, 1970
  2. ^ a b Thoroughbred Bloodlines: Eclipse Retrieved on 2011-08-21
  3. ^ a b c d e Montgomery, E.S, “The Thoroughbred”, Arco, New York, 1973 ISBN 0-668-02824-6
  4. ^ Whyte, James Christie (1840). History of the British turf, from the earliest period to the present day, Volume I.  
  5. ^ Whyte, James Christie (1840). History of the British Turf. H. Colburn, London. 
  6. ^ Barrie, Douglas M., The Australian Bloodhorse, Angus & Robertson, Sydney, 1956
  7. ^ Morris, Simon; Tesio Power 2000 - Stallions of the World, Syntax Software
  8. ^ a b  
  9. ^ TB Heritage: Eclipse Retrieved on 2009-8-7
  10. ^ "The X-Factor: Heart of the Matter". Retrieved 3 May 2013. 
  11. ^ Thoroughbred Bloodlines: Lister's Turk Retrieved 2011-08-21

External links

  • Science News - Why Was The Racehorse Eclipse So Good?
  • BBC: DNA study of 'greatest racehorse'
  • BBC: 'Averageness' key to great racehorses
  • Mayor Jefe de Raza : Eclipse (Spanish)
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