Great race not to be ‘Eclipsed’

Saturday sees the running of one of the world’s very great contests

Saturday sees the running of one of the world’s very great contests. The Gr1 Coral Eclipse Stakes, which will be run at Sandown over 2018m, attracts very little attention in the local press due to it’s being run on the same day as the Vodacom Durban July, writes Sarah Whitelaw.

But, in terms, of quality of winner and the influence it has had on the modern day thoroughbred, the Eclipse remains a race of the very highest class.


Galileo (Sadler’s Wells – Urban Sea)

First run in 1886, the Eclipse has long proved a testing ground for the season’s top three-year-olds to take on older competition.

Ayrshire (Hampton), who was victorious in 1889, was the first horse to win the Epsom Derby/Eclipse Stakes double, with others to complete that double including Triple Crown winners, Isinglass (Isonomy) and Rock Sand (Sainfoin), as well as Persimmon (St Simon), Ard Patrick (St Florian), Lemberg (Cyllene), Coronach (Hurry On), Windsor Lad (Blandford), Tulyar (Tehran), Royal Palace (Ballymoss), Nashwan (Blushing Groom) and Sea The Stars (Cape Cross).

To date, five horses have won the Eclipse twice –Orme, Buchan, Polyphontes, Mtoto (who was partnered to his two victories by champion South African jockey, Michael Roberts), and the recently deceased, Halling (Diesis).

Needless to say, the Eclipse Stakes has produced a number of very important stallions since it was first run – and it continues to churn out major sires.

Sea The Stars

Sea The Stars – champion

Sea The Stars –s ire of Saturday’s Gr1 Dubai Duty Free Irish Derby winner, Harzand, being the latest in a long line of past Eclipse winners to star at stud.

Big Titles

In 1895-1896, the Eclipse was won by two sons of St Simon, St Frusquin and Persimmon, who between them would garner six general sires’ titles between them.  Their sire left behind no fewer than four Eclipse Stakes winners, with Diamond Jubilee and Darley Dale winning the race in 1900 and 1904.

Bayardo, the winner of the Eclipse in 1909, was an outstanding racehorse who would go on to head one of the most important sire lines of the early 20th century. The son of Bay Ronald won 22 of his 25 races, with his wins including the Gold Cup, St Leger, Champion Stakes, Middle Park Stakes and Dewhurst Stakes, and he would go on to sire Triple Crown winner, Gainsborough (the sire of six time champion sire Hyperion).

Swynford, the 1911 Eclipse Stakes winner, was another outstanding sire.

The son of John O’Gaunt, who headed the GB Sires List in 1923, left behind a number of classic winners as well as the hugely successful and multiple champion sire, Blandford (the latter going on to sire Eclipse Stakes winners Windsor Lad and Pasch). Another top sire to win the Eclipse was Fairway, who headed the general sires list on four occasions and sired the outstanding sire Fair Trial.

Mill Reef, (Never Bend), who waltzed home by six lengths in the 1971 Eclipse Stakes was one of the greatest Eclipse Stakes winners, and was a champion both on the track and at stud.

His offspring included the Epsom Derby winners, Shirley Heights and Reference Point and he won 12 of 14 outings including the Epsom Derby, Arc, King George, Dewhurst Stakes and Coronation Cup, and was champion sire in 1978 and 1987.

Another champion sire to win the Eclipse was Iron Horse, Giant’s Causeway.

Giant's Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

The son of Storm Cat was named Horse Of The Year in 2000, after a campaign which saw Giant’s Causeway win five Gr1 races in a row (with his streak including a memorable tussle with Breeders’ Cup champion, Kalanisi, in the 2000 Coral-Eclipse. Giant’s Causeway, a champion sire three times in the USA, is sire of more than 100 stakes winners, with his sons including the hugely successful sire, Shamardal.

To date, Giant’s Causeway (sire of SA sires, Eightfold Path and the ill-fated, Await The Dawn, and damsire of another SA sire and champion in Soft Falling Rain) has over 30 Group/Grade One winners to his credit, including 2016 Blue Grass Stakes winner, Brody’s Cause.


However, the greatest sire ever to win the Eclipse was legendary sire, Sadler’s Wells, who would go on to head the GB/Irish General Sires List on 14 occasions.

Sadler's Wells - painting by Susan Crawford

Sadler’s Wells – painting by Susan Crawford

The son of Northern Dancer defeated the great mare, Time Charter, when victorious in the 1984 Eclipse Stakes, himself went on to sire Eclipse Stakes winners, Opera House and Refuse To Bend, and is currently the second leading sire of stakes winners in history. Sadler’s Wells’ sons, Galileo and High Chaparral, also left behind Eclipse Stakes winners in Nathaniel and So You Think.

Sadler’s Wells is also the sire of arguably the greatest sire ever to stand in Ireland, Galileo, as well as the outstanding sires, Montjeu, High Chaparral, El Prado and hugely successful South African sire, Fort Wood.

Favourite for the 2016 Eclipse Stakes is Time Test (Dubawi), who will be looking to emulate his close relative, Twice Over.

Twice Over (Observatory - Double Crossed)

Twice Over (Observatory – Double Crossed)

The latter, who now stands at Klawervlei, won the Gr1 Coral- Eclipse Stakes back in 2010, when accounting for Sri Putra by half a length.

Interestingly enough, the beaten horses in that contest included the triple Group One winner, Dar Re Mi (Singspiel), dam of this year’s unbeaten Gr3 Musidora Stakes winner, So Mi Dar (Dubawi).

Time Test’s opponents look likely to include such Gr1 winners as My Dream Boat (Lord Shanakill), The Gurkha (Galileo) and Fascinating Rock (Fastnet Rock), and the 2016 Eclipse Stakes could well prove yet another superb chapter in a race whose influence and legend looks sure to continue for years to come.

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