Eclipse: King of the tracks

A fast, spirited, and temperamental British-bred steed, Eclipse's exuberant athleticism and unmatchable pace saw him become one of the greatest racing horses in history. Owned first by William Wildman and then acquired later by Dennis O'Kelly, the steed went on an undefeated run that lasted for 17 straight months. During Eclipse's racing career, the thoroughbred won 18 consecutive high-stakes races with 11 of these winnings coming at the King’s Plate.

After one of the most dominant displays by a racing horse, Eclipse was retired from racing as many people were unwilling to bet on other horses. In 1769, William Wildman acquired Eclipse under unusual circumstances. After coming late to an auction, Wildman demanded a restart of the entire process. Eclipse, a foal at the time, was sold to Wildman for 46 Guineas.

By the age of 5 years, Wildman placed Eclipse for the first time on the racing tracks. Within the first few months, O'Kelly, a distinguished businessman and thoroughbred breeder amassed a great deal of fortune from gambling due to Eclipse's success on the racing tracks. In 1779, O’Kelly decided to purchase a 50% stake and the following year purchased the remaining 50% when Eclipse turned 6 years, becoming the new custodian of the horse.

Eclipe's Profile

  • Place of birth: Cranbourne Lodge

  • Date of birth: 27th February 1789

  • Age of death: Eclipse succumbed at 24 Years due to complications resulting from colic.

  • Sex: Stallion

  • Owners: William Wildman and Dennis O'Kelly

  • Trainer: Sullivan

  • Sire: Marske

  • Dam: Spilleta

  • Jockey/s: N/A

  • Record: 18 wins including 7 heats

  • Career earnings: 2,149 guineas

Eclipse’s Achievements

At top speed, it is estimated that Eclipse covered 83 feet per second, and 25 feet per stride. It is this outstanding speed that made Eclipse a force to reckon with on the racing tracks. On May 3rd, 1779, Eclipse took part in his first-ever competitive race, a 4-mile heat, and won £50 after finishing first. In the same month, Eclipse took part in another race at the £50 Plate. Once again, Eclipse rose to the occasion by overpowering Crême de Barbade, the only competitor in the race. Eclipse would then take part in the King’s Plate, finishing first.

In the four months that followed, Eclipse took part in 6 races including 4 King’s Plates, one 50 Guinea Plate race, and one City Bowl Race. In all these six races, Eclipse managed to take the pole position, with 3 of these wins coming via walkover. Eclipse's other career winnings include the York King's Plate, Nottingham King's plate, Guilford King's Plate, Lewes King's Plate, Newmarket October King's Plate, and many others.

Notable Remarks

A hands-down winner, Eclipse was no ordinary horse. Because of his impressive display on the racing tracks, Eclipse was a subject of various scientific studies and analysis back in the 1800s. These studies did find a lot of differences between Eclipse and other racing horses at the time. For instance, there were some outstanding differences between the proportions of an ordinary horse and that of Eclipse. Eclipse’s neck was a 1⁄3rd too long which made him slightly taller than most horses at the time.

Moreover, texts from the 1800s also point out that although Eclipse’s shoulders were too fleshy, this irregularity was counterbalanced with the near-perfect mechanical and physical conformation of Eclipse's legs. Many researchers pointed out that Eclipse was never at any point in the racing tracks fully stretched. Another interesting fact about Eclipse was that he was named after the great eclipse, which took place on the day he was foaled.

In addition, studies also indicate that Eclipse is the ancestor of more than 95% of modern-day thoroughbreds. Some of Eclipse's descendants include Secretariat and Barbaro, with both horses winning the Kentucky Derby. After Eclipse’s historic display in the racing tracks, the Eclipse Awards, an American horse-racing awards, Eclipse Stakes, and the Prix Eclipse were all created in honor of Eclipse. In addition, an American sports car, the Mitsubishi Eclipse was named after Eclipse.