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Chestnut colt, 1764.
By Marske - Spiletta by Regulus.
Darley Arabian Sire line:
Eclipse Branch.
Family 12.

His sire, Marske

Eclipse was foaled during the great solar eclipse that occurred in 1764. His exact place of birth is unknown, but likely at the Cranborne Lodge Stud of his breeder, H.R.H. William, the Duke of Cumberland (the third son of Englandís King George II) in Windsor Park in Berkshire. This is where his sire, Marske, stood at stud, having been swapped for an Arabian by Marske's breeder John Hutton. Eclipse's dam, Spiletta, had been purchased by the Duke from her breeder, Sir Robert Eden.

Cumberland stud
The Duke of Cumberland visiting his stud, c. 1764
Cumberland died in 1765 and the dispersal of his bloodstock included the flashy chestnut yearling Eclipse, purchased for 75 guineas by William Wildman, a sheep dealer from Smithfield. Also in that sale was the seven-year-old horse, King Herod, sold to Sir John Moore, a horse who became known better to the world of racing simply as "Herod," and who, along with Eclipse and Matchem, became one of the great triumvirate of early sires.

Marske was sold for 20 guineas to a farmer in Dorset but after Eclipse began racing, was rescued from this obscurity by Wildman himself, bought for 1,000 guineas. Eclipse's dam, Spiletta, became the property of the Duke of Ancaster.

Eclipse was allowed to grow, although his temperament caused some thought to be given to gelding him, but hard riding proved to be enough schooling. He did not start until he was fully mature at the age of five, after some frightening "secret" works, on May 3, 1769, winning a plate valued at 50 pounds at Epsom in straight four-mile heats. Supposedly, prior to the second heat, a betting man named Dennis O'Kelly attempted to predict the finish of the race, announcing his bet "Eclipse first, the rest nowhere." Eclipse distanced all his competitors, and O'Kelly bought half of Eclipse for 650 guineas.

The rest of the year was a procession for the high strung chestnut. His next two races included a two-mile heats at Ascot at the end of May, a Kingís Plate at Winchester (4 mile heats), then he garnered two more victories through the a lack of willing competition, resulting in walk overs for a City Plate at Winchester and a Kingís Plate at Salisbury. He won the City Free Plate at Salisbury (4 mile heats), then three more Kingís Plates, at Canterbury (a walk over), Lewes, and Lichtfield. He ended the season with nine wins in as many races.

The following year, he remained undefeated and untouchable, and as early as April of that year, O'Kelly bought out Wildmanís remaining half interest for 1,100 guineas. Eclipse started with a victory in a match race against Bucephalus at Newmarket over the Beacon Course, and followed by taking the Newmarket King's Plate (4 mile heats). He took the King's Plate at Guildford via a walk over, another walk over in a King's Plate at Nottingham and again at York. He then won the Great Subscription at York, run in a single four mile "dash," followed by another Kingís Plate at Lincoln. Moving on to the Newmarket meeting, he won two races in two days, including the King's Plate in a walk over. In the end, there was no more reason to race him, having proven that he was superior to everything else in training by a wide margin, never having been seriously challenged. He won all 18 of his starts, and was declared the greatest runner the turf had seen since Flying Childers (a full brother to Eclipse's own great-grandsire Bartlett's Childers, sire of Squirt, sire of Marske.)

Eclipse retired to stud in 1771 at O'Kelly's Clay Hill Stud, near Epsom (Surrey), initially standing for a fee of 50 guineas. In 1788, he was relocated to Cannons Stud, Edgeware (Middlesex). Still the property of Dennis O'Kelly, Eclipse died there as a result of colic on February 26, 1789, at the age of 24. His skeleton is now on display in the Jockey Club Museum in Newmarket. Several of his hooves (which apparently numbered at least five) were made into inkstands, a popular tribute at the time. One was crafted in gold, prepared as a goblet and given to the King of England. Hairs from his tail were further woven into the tassel of "The Whip, supposedly Charles II's whip, and the prize of victory in the self-named race, which must be contested for via a challenge.

Eclipse became one of the leading sires of his era, although the list was actually dominated by Herod and his son Highflyer for many years. His progeny were described as "light fleshed and easily trained." In all, Eclipse sired 344 winners, including the Derby winners Young Eclipse, Saltram, Volunteer, and Sergeant, as well as the important runners and sires Pot-8-os, King Fergus, Mercury, Joe Andrews, Dungannon, Alexander, Don Quixote, and Pegasus. The lines of Pot-8-os and King Fergus survive to this day. In fact, it's estimated that among all living Thoroughbreds, at least 95% can trace their direct tail-male line back to Eclipse.

Only one of his daughters was a classic winner, Annette, winner of the Oaks of 1787, but his daughters proved outstanding broodmares, especially crossed with Herod and Highflyer, producing Phoenomenon, Haphazard, Chanticleer, Weasel, Skyscraper, Tartar, Stamford, Archduke, John Bull, Meteora, and Remembrancer.

Eclipse was a bright chestnut with a narrow blaze running down the length of his face ending between his nostrils. His right hind leg was also white almost up to his hock. Eclipse was a big horse, but tremendously strong, sound and fast. He was never lauded for his looks and sometimes criticized for having a large, unattractive head. His difficult temperament was well known and he carried high weights successfully in most of his races. Upon his death, his body was submitted for serious medical scrutiny. His height was just over 16 hands, by half an inch, but he was notably an inch higher at the rump than at the withers. His heart was said to be inordinately large.

--Anne Peters

ECLIPSE, Chestnut colt, 1764 - Family # 12
br.c. 1750
ch.c. 1732
Bartlett's Childers
b.c. 17--
Darley Arabian
Betty Leedes
Mare by Snake
Grey Wilkes
Mare by Blacklegs (The Ruby Mare)
Blacklegs (Hutton's)
Hutton's Bay Barb
Mare by Coneyskins
Mare by Bay Bolton
Bay Bolton
Mare by Fox Cub
b.f. 1749
b.c. 1739
Godolphin Arabian
b.c. 1724
Grey Robinson
g.f. 1723
Bald Galloway
Mare by Snake
Mother Western
Smith's Son of Snake (Easby)
(Lister) Snake
Squirrel's dam
Old Montagu Mare
Old Montagu
Mare by Hautboy

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