Eclipse: The Horse That Changed Racing History Forever

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Overview

A chestnut with a white blaze is scorching across the turf towards the finishing post. His four rivals are so far behind him that, in racing terms, they are "nowhere." Watching Eclipse is the man who wants to buy him. An adventurer and rogue who has made his money through gambling, Dennis O'Kelly is also companion to the madam of a notorious London brothel.

While O'Kelly is destined to remain an outcast to the racing establishment, his horse will go on to become the undisputed, ...

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Eclipse: The Horse That Changed Racing History Forever

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Overview

A chestnut with a white blaze is scorching across the turf towards the finishing post. His four rivals are so far behind him that, in racing terms, they are "nowhere." Watching Eclipse is the man who wants to buy him. An adventurer and rogue who has made his money through gambling, Dennis O'Kelly is also companion to the madam of a notorious London brothel.

While O'Kelly is destined to remain an outcast to the racing establishment, his horse will go on to become the undisputed, undefeated champion of his sport. Eclipse's male-line descendants include Secretariat, Barbaro, and all but three of the Kentucky Derby winners of the past fifty years.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this colorful history, British journalist Clee (Don’t Sweat the Aubergine) argues that Eclipse “is the most influential stallion in the history of the Thoroughbred,” pointing out that “all but three of the Kentucky Derby winners of the past fifty years” are his descendants. He covers the horse’s undefeated racing career, from 1769 to 1771, and his days as a stud, which extended nearly to his death in 1789. Since no horse ever came close to defeating Eclipse, Clee focuses on the people whose lives were intertwined with Eclipse’s, like Prince William, duke of Cumberland, Eclipse’s original owner, whose death sent the horse to auction, where it was bought under unusual circumstances by a butcher named William Wildman. But the real star is gambler and roughneck Dennis O’Kelly, who along with his companion, Charlotte Hayes, the madam of England’s foremost brothel, owned Eclipse for most of the horse’s life. By combining stories of royals and commoners; sex and breeding lines; art and debauchery; fortunes lost and purses won, Clee creates a portrait of 18th-century England that is, at times, Dickensian. Solidly written, this work will give horse racing fans a glimpse of one of history’s great horses as well as the colorful heritage of their favorite present-day steeds. (Apr.)
Forbes.com

"The story of [Eclipse] is a compelling one; It's entertaining to read about, too. Clee's research yielded no shortage of juicy tidbits about prostitutes, gamblers, and minor and major royalty, tidbits that Clee conveys in an accessible biographical narrative that, while clearly scholarly, never feels academic . . . The book is as much a social history as it is a sporting one: Clee vividly describes life in 18th century London."

Library Journal
This is a highly entertaining account of one of the most famous racehorses in history. Eclipse (1764–89) was a legend in his time and, astonishingly, became the progenitor of all but three of the 50 most recent Kentucky Derby winners. Clee (columnist, Times, UK) chronicles both the life of the horse, who started racing at age five, and the Irish gambler Dennis O'Kelly, who purchased him soon thereafter. The author weaves in many other colorful characters who played a part in the story, including Sir Charles Bunbury (founder of the Jockey Club), the Earl of Derby (from whom classic races take their name), and King George IV. Eclipse was so famous that he modeled for George Stubbs, the preeminent equine painter; examples of art that Eclipse inspired are included in the book. For racing fans, Clee also includes histories of famous races, wagers, bloodlines, and the stories of some of Eclipse's most celebrated offspring. VERDICT A richly detailed narrative that draws a portrait of the Georgian era of English sport and decadence as it proceeds. Not to be missed by readers who loved Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit or by horse lovers and horseracing fans generally.—Amy Ford, St. Mary's Cty. Lib., Lexington Park, MD
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590207376
  • Publisher: Overlook
  • Publication date: 3/29/2012
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 854,366
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.04 (h) x 1.24 (d)

Meet the Author

NICHOLAS CLEE is a journalist and racing enthusiast, and is also the author of a cookbook, Don't Sweat the Aubergine. Clee writes a weekly column in the Times and reviews in the Times Literary Supplement.

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Table of Contents

Prologue 1

1 The Chairman 3

2 The Bawd 17

3 The Gambler 27

4 The Duke 40

5 The Meat Salesman 52

6 The Young Thoroughbred 62

7 Coup de Foudre 74

8 The Rest Nowhere 87

9 1-100 Eclipse 97

10 The First Lady Abbess 113

11 The Stallion 128

12 The Most Glorious Spectacle 140

13 Cross and Jostle 158

14 An Example to the Turf 169

15 The 14lb Heart 181

16 The Litigant 189

17 The Decline of the Jontleman 203

18 Artists' Models 215

19 Eclipse's Legacy - the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries 229

20 Eclipse's Legacy - the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries 248

21 The Skeleton 269

Sources 281

Appendix 1 Eclipse's Racing Career 293

Appendix 2 Eclipse's Pedigree 298

Appendix 3 The O'Kelly Family 308

Appendix 4 Racing Terms, Historical and Contemporary 309

Bibliography 314

Acknowledgements 322

Picture Acknowledgements 324

Index 329

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2013

    Spiritheart

    I luv horses!!!

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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