All eyes will be focused on Sandown on Saturday for the 123rd year of the Eclipse Stakes, BettingPro staff take a look at the history of the race whose unbeaten eponymous hero was born during the astronomical event of 1764.
The Eclipse is often billed as the season's first big battle of the generations. However the mid distance, of a mile and a quarter, adds an extra dimension as it attracts horses who have won a guineas as well as those that go on to become cup horses.
Bendigo won the first race in 1886 and seven years later Orme (1892 and 1893) became the first dual winner. Since then Buchan (1919 and 1920), Polyphontes (1924 and 1925), and more recently Mtoto (1987 and 1988) and Halling (1995 and 1996) have also won twice.
Breeders' Cup-winner Pilsudski won a controversial renewal in 1997 where odds-on favourite Bosra Sham, who had won the previous season's 1000 Guineas winner, went for a run up the inside but, finding no racing room, Kieren Fallon switched round horses eventually finishing a close up third just a short-head behind second-placed Benny The Dip - a ride that attracted lots of media debate.
In 2007 Notnowcato, under Ryan Moore, ploughed a lone furrow down the stand side beating Derby-winner Authorized and previous season's 2000 Guineas-winner George Washington who engaged in a humdinger of a duel on the rail although ultimately for second place
Recent notable winners include Mill Reef (1971); Brigadier Gerard (1972); Pebbles (1985); Dancing Brave (1986); Nashwan (1989); Daylami (1998); Giants Causeway (2000); Hawk Wing (2002) and Falbrav (2003).
The race is named after the brilliant racehorse who was born during the solar eclipse on 1st April 1764. The famous phrase 'Eclipse first, the rest nowhere' dates back to the chestnut's first race which was at Epsom on May 3rd 1769.
At that time most races were run in heats of around four miles followed by a final over the same distance. The son of Marske had already won his heat when gambler Dennis O'Kelly struck the wager, meaning that Eclipse would come home a distance clear of his nearest rival in the final heat. The then five-year-old duly did and O'Kelly used his winnings to purchase an interest in the horse eventually buying him outright.
However being owned by O'Kelly meant that Eclipse could not compete in the top races as they were only open to horses owned by members of the Jockey Club where O'Kelly had been blackballed. Therefore Eclipse was left with no option but to carry huge weights in handicap plates. Which he did very successfully winning all of his 18 races, nine in each of his two racing seasons, by exaggerated margins despite his jockey trying to restrain him.
The opposition evaporated - five of the races were reduced walk overs - along with the gambling possibilities and so Eclipse was retired to stud at the end of 1771. Along with Herod and Highflyer he became a leading sire until his death on 1789 and according to many sources 95 per cent of all current thoroughbreds have Eclipse in their pedigree.
The Prix Eclipse, currently run at Chantilly, and the Eclipse Awards in America also commemorate the great champion.
The early part of the Eclipse Stakes roll of honour is littered with the greats including the sixth Triple Crown-winner Isinglass (1894) who won as a four-year-old; Persimmon (1897) the Derby winner of the previous year owned by the Prince of Wales; Ard Patrick (1903) who had triumphed in the Derby the year before; dual Gold Cup-winner Prince Palatine (1920); Colorado (1927) the previous season's 2000 Guineas winner; Windsor Lad (1935) and Blue Peter (1939) who had both won the Derby the year before; Migoli (1947) who won the next year's Arc; Tulyar (1952) Derby and St Leger victor the same season; Ballymoss (1958) Arc and Irish Derby winner; St Paddy (1961) winner of the Derby and St Leger the year before; and Royal Palace (1968) the previous season's 2000 Guineas and Derby winner.
The 1910 race resulted in a dead-heat between Lemberg and Neil Gow. There were no races in 1887 and 1890 or during the wars 1915 to1918 and 1940 to1945.
25 years ago - Sadler's Wells showed plenty of resolution to hold the late challenges of Time Charter and Morcon by a neck and the same. The son of Northern Dancer, the only three year old in the contest, was always nicely placed ranging up alongside the pacesetting Society Boy early in the straight. Pat Eddery pushed on at the furlong marker and the combination pulled out all the stops to prevail by a diminishing margin.
10 years ago - Compton Admiral (pictured above second left) showed a good turn of foot from an unpromising position to beat Xaar and Fantastic Light at 20-1. Gerard Butler's son of Suave Dancer, who had won the Craven Stakes, took full advantage of the gap that opened up on the rail winning cosily in the end despitre jockey Darryll Holland momentarily dropping the reins a furlong from home.
Five years ago - The previous season's 2000 Guineas-winner Refuse To Bend, at 15-2, took his career win tally to seven. Produced to challenge market-leader Rakti in the last quarter of a mile the son of Saddler's Wells struck the lead before the furlong marker and then just held the late surge of Warrsan by a head with four lengths back to Oriental Magic in third.
Last Year - An exciting finish with Aidan O'Brien's Mount Nelson getting up in the final stride to deprive favourite Phoenix Tower. Multidimensional, stablemate of the market leader, made the pace until headed two furlongs out by Campanologist who was quickly joined by Phoenix Tower. However Johnny Murtagh galvanised Mount Nelson, who despite initially hanging, gamely got there in the shadow of the post. After four wins in a row Phoenix Tower had now completed a hat-trick of seconds and would have to settle for the same position again in his swan song when beaten by another Coolmore runner, this time Duke Of Marmalade, in the rescheduled International Stakes at Newmarket.