The Eclipse Stakes is a Group One race run over 1 mile, 1 furlong and 209 yards at Sandown Park Racecourse, in Esher, Surrey, in early July. The race is open to colts, fillies and geldings aged three years and upwards an, as such, provides the first major opportunity for three-year-olds of the so-called ‘Classic generation’ to race against older rivals. The Eclipse Stakes was established in 1886, under the auspices of Leopold de Rothschild, proprietor of the Southcourt Stud, near Leighton Buzzard and, at the time of its inauguration, was the most valuable race in the country.
The Eclipse Stakes is named after Eclipse, a champion racehorse who, in 1771, retired from racing undefeated in all 18 starts – albeit including eight walkovers – and was declared the greatest thoroughbred since the celebrated Flying Childers, nearly five decades earlier. However, since 1976, the Eclipse Stakes has been sponsored by Coral, nowadays part of GVC Holdings plc, and is often referred to as the ‘Coral-Eclipse’.
The roll of honour for the Eclipse Stakes reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of middle-distance talent throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and, since 1970, includes the likes of Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Sadler’s Wells, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Sea The Stars, Golden Horn and Enable. Five horses, including Mtoto in 1987 and 1988 and Halling in 1995 and 1996, have recorded back-to-back victories in the Eclipse Stakes.
Lester Piggott is the leading jockey in the history of the Eclipse Stakes with sevens wins, including on St. Paddy – erstwhile winner of the Derby and St. Leger – in 1961. This was certainly something worth factoring in when looking to compare the odds. The so-called ‘Wizard of Manton’, Alec Taylor Jr., saddled six winners of the Eclipse Stakes between 1903 and 1923, including Lemberg, who dead-heated for first place in 1910, and Buchan, who won the race twice, in 1919 and 1920. Much more recently, veteran Newmarket trainer Sir Michael Stoute saddled the latest of his six winners, Ulysses, as recently as 2017 and shares the position of most successful trainer in the history of the Eclipse Stakes.