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Quick Guide to the Sandown Eclipse Festival

Guide to the Sandown Eclipse Festival: The Summer Festival at Sandown Park Racecourse features a Ladies’ Day followed by Coral-Eclipse Day – Sandown’s most prestigious summer raceday.



The Eclipse Stakes is a Group 1 flat race open to horses aged three years or older. It is run over a distance of 10 furlongs (2,012 metres), and takes place each year in early July.

The event is named (like this website) after Eclipse, a celebrated 18th-century racehorse. First run in 1886, the inaugural race was won by Bendigo. At that time, it was Britain’s richest ever race with a prize fund of £10,000 donated by owner-breeder Leopold de Rothschild in response to a request by General Owen Williams, a co-founder of Sandown Park Racecourse.

Eclipse (1764–1789) won all of his 18 starts and has played a pivotal role as a stallion in the development of the modern thoroughbred racehorse. Indeed, around 95 per cent of today’s racehorses have direct lineage back to Eclipse – including all six runners in 2022’s Coral-Eclipse.

With such a rich prize on offer the Eclipse Stakes attracted high-quality fields from the start and it is now famed for being the first time that the British Classic generation can face their older peers at Group 1 level – as a result it is one of the most fascinating and important races of the Flat season.

From the contest’s inception, the roll of honour features many of the very best horses to have ever graced the turf. In 1889 it was won by Ayrshire, the previous year’s Derby winner, while the first three finishers in 1903 — Ard Patrick, Sceptre and Rock Sand — had won seven Classics between them. Triple Crown heroes Isinglass, Flying Fox and Diamond Jubilee were prominent among the early winners while the likes of Blue Peter, Tulyar, Royal Palace, Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Pebbles, Dancing Brave, Nashwan, Giant’s Causeway, Sea The Stars and Enable have all been successful. Perhaps the most significant winner of the modern era is Sadler’s Wells in 1984, who went on to be crowned Champion Sire in Britain and Ireland a record 14 times, with 12-times Champion Sire Galileo among his offspring.

The 2021 hero St Mark’s Basilica was named Horse of the Year at the Cartier Racing Awards and was rated the joint-best three year in the 2021 LONGINES World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, alongside Epsom Derby winner Adayar.

There have been 126 runnings to date (2023 will be the 127th). There was no race in 1887 while there was no contest between 1915 and 1918 and again between 1940 and 1945 due to the two World Wars. The 1946 race was staged at Ascot and the 1973 running took place at Kempton Park while Sandown Park was undergoing redevelopment.

Coral first sponsored the race in 1976 and in one of the longest-standing sponsorships in British racing, the bookmaker backs the race for the 48th time in 2023, making it the longest Group race sponsorship anywhere in the world.

The Coral-Eclipse forms part of the QIPCO British Champions Series.

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Most successful horse (2 wins): Orme – 1892, 1893; Buchan – 1919, 1920; Polyphontes – 1924, 1925; Mtoto – 1987, 1988; and Halling – 1995, 1996

Leading jockey (7 wins): Lester Piggott – Mystery IX (1951), Darius (1955), Arctic Explorer (1957), St Paddy (1961), Pieces of Eight (1966), Wolver Hollow (1969), Artaius (1977).

Among the current generation of jockeys, Frankie Dettori has won the race more than any other, with four successes – Daylami (1998), Refuse To Bend (2004), Golden Horn (2015) and Enable (2018).

Leading trainer (6 wins): Aidan O’Brien, Sir Michael Stoute and Alec Taylor Jr are the most successful trainers in the race, with six wins each.

St Mark’s Basilica was O’Brien’s sixth winner when successful in 2021. The master of Ballydoyle had previously scored with Giant’s Causeway (2000), Hawk Wing (2002), Oratorio (2005), Mount Nelson (2008) and So You Think (2011).

Stoute’s winners are Opera House (1993), Ezzoud (1994), Pilsudski (1996), Medicean (2001), Notnowcato (2007) and Ulysses (2017).

Taylor saddled Bayardo (1909), Lemberg (1910, dead-heat), Buchan (1919, 1920), Craig an Eran (1921) and Saltash (1923) to success.

Leading owner (6 wins): The Maktoum family’s Godolphin operation and Coolmore syndicates involving Sue Magnier and Michael Tabor are the most successful owners, with six wins each.

Godolphin’s six victories came courtesy of Halling (1995, 1996), Daylami (1998), Refuse to Bend (2004), Hawkbill (2016) and Ghaiyyath (2020).

The six Coolmore successes were provided by Giant’s Causeway (2000), Hawk Wing (2002), Oratorio (2005), Mount Nelson (2008), So You Think (2011) and St Mark’s Basilica (2021).

Age of winners: The age breakdown of winners is below, showing that four years olds are the most successful age group.

3YO – 52 wins

4YO – 55 wins

5YO – 18 wins

6YO – 1 win

NB: Between 1888 and 1969, the race was restricted to three and four year olds. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 contest was restricted to four year olds and upwards. The 2020 running took place on Sunday 5th July, 24 hours after The Derby at Epsom Downs.

Fastest time: Sea The Stars in 2019, who won in a time of 2m 03.40s.

Shortest-priced winner: Persimmon at 12/100 in 1897.

Longest-priced winner: Coup de Feu at 33/1 in 1974.

Favourites: In the 77 runnings in the post-World War II period, favourites have scored on 27 occasions (35.5 per cent strike rate), most recently St Mark’s Basilica at Evens in 2021.  

Overseas-trained winners: A total of 24 winners have been trained outside of the UK, with 15 hailing from Ireland (most recently St Mark’s Basilica in 2021), eight from France (most recently Vadeni in 2022) and one from Germany (Star Appeal in 1975).

Fillies & Mares: Fillies and mares have a very moderate record in the Coral-Eclipse with just three coming out on top – Pebbles (1985), Kooyonga (1992) and Enable (2019).

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