The Coral Eclipse Stakes, at one time Britain’s richest race, is a rarity – it’s named after a horse. Eclipse was a phenomenal 18th-century stallion, unbeaten in 18 starts. His excellence inspired the phrase “Eclipse first and the rest nowhere”, still used today to describe a dominating performance.
Fittingly, the Coral-Eclipse Stakes, run at Sandown Park over 1 mile 2 furlongs (2,000 metres) for three-year-olds and older horses, has always attracted high-quality fields. Take the first three finishers in 1903 – they shared seven Classic victories between them. That tradition has continued, with the 2009 race won by Sea The Stars, the 2000 Guineas and Derby winner (and, later in the same year, victor in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris).
The Coral-Eclipse provides the first major opportunity for three-year-olds, who have previously only raced at the top level against their own generation in races like the QIPCO 2000 and QIPCO 1000 Guineas, the Investec Derby and Investec Oaks and the St James’s Palace Stakes and Coronation Stakes, to meet their older rivals. The bookmaker Coral has sponsored the race since 1976, making it one of the longest-running sports sponsorships.