Thursday, July 5, 2012


by Nicholas Clee

The subtitle is "The Story of the rogue, the madam, and the horse that changed racing forever," and it does just what it says on the tin.  Eclipse won every race he ever started in, without ever feeling the touch of whip or spur; in many of them, he was the only entry and all he had to do was walk over the course, since his winning was considered such a sure thing that other horse owners saw no point in actually contesting it.  It's not completely verified which race was the one that inspired his owner to predict the finishing order as "Eclipse first, the rest nowhere"--a couple of different ones have the anecdote attached to them, but it could have been almost any of them.

I had read very little about Eclipse before, just a paragraph at the end of King of the Wind, Marguerite Henry's book about the Godolphin Arabian.  I was interested to read in this book that there's some dispute about exactly who Eclipse's sire was, and one of the options would remove the Godolphin Arabian from the lineage (and add in the Byerly Turk); I was oddly distressed by that.

I was also quite interested in this book's portrayal of the Turf at the time; it wasn't a time period or a venue that I knew much about.


  1. I am sadly ignorant about horses and horse racing, but I did really enjoy the two Dick Francis mysteries that I've read. Maybe this is a new topic I need to explore.

    1. This one was great if you're at all interested in the time period, the 1770s and 1780s. If you prefer an American underdog type story, I'd go with Seabiscuit, by Laura Hillenbrand.

      Other than that, about all I know of horse racing comes from Dick Francis!