American Eclipse

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American Eclipse
American Eclipse (USA).jpg
American Eclipse, by Edward Troye
Sire Duroc
Grandsire Diomed
Dam Miller's Damsel
Damsire Messenger
Sex Stallion
Foaled 25 May 1814
Country United States
Colour Chestnut
Breeder Nathaniel Coles
Owner Cornelius W. Van Ranst
Walter Livingstone
Trainer No record exists, probably his owners
Record 8 starts, 8 wins
Earnings $25,000
National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame inductee
Last updated on 23 January 2011

American Eclipse (1814 to 1847) was an undefeated American Thoroughbred racehorse, who raced when three to four mile heats were common.


American Eclipse was bred on Long Island, New York by General Nathaniel Coles. He was by Duroc (by the founding stallion Diomed), out of Miller's Damsel (known as the "Queen of the Northern Turf," by Messenger). Interestingly enough, Miller’s Damsel’s dam was a mare (foaled in 1792) by Pot8os who was by the original Eclipse.

The horse was a chestnut stallion that was only 15 hands 1 inch high and named after the great English champion Eclipse. The original Eclipse (1764 to 1789) so outstanding that may people named their horses Eclipse in the vain hope they had another Eclipse, about whom it was said: "Eclipse first—the rest nowhere."

Racing record[edit]

American Eclipse proved himself worthy of his name as soon as he began training and was entered in his first trial. Coles didn't start him until he was a three-year-old, and then he raced him sparingly. He had a few race starts at four and was victorious each time. He was according to all who saw him, the greatest American racehorse of his day.

At five he raced for Cornelius W. Van Ranst who had purchased him from Coles for $3,000. At five he maintained his form, but Van Ranst put him out to stud at six. At ages six and seven he bred to a number of mares for a fee of $12.50. To assist the newly opened Union Course, Van Ranst put him back into training. In his next start he defeated the good mare, Lady Lightfoot (a winner of 31 races) by Sir Archy, in the first heat. He distanced her in the second heat when they were the only starters, since all others had withdrawn. In his next race, all other horses scratched after contesting American Eclipse in the first heat, except Sir Walter who was then easily defeated by American Eclipse.

At this point a match race was organized between American Eclipse and James J. Harrison’s noted horse, Sir Charles. Sir Charles, with 20 wins to his credit, injured himself in a workout and Harrison was required to forfeit the match, which American Eclipse won. A second match was arranged, only a single heat, and this time Sir Charles raced, but broke down leaving American Eclipse, an easy winner.[1]

American Eclipse versus Sir Henry match Race[edit]

When American Eclipse was nine years old, another challenge was issued, intending to race five of the very best horses against American Eclipse, representing, of course, the North. The race was to be run six months from the date of the challenge over the old Long Island Union Course. (This kind of thing was often done, with no one knowing what condition a horse might be in after six months, and in this case, with the South not having to name the horses challenging.) The South's noted horseman William Johnson trained six horses from the South before deciding that Henry was to race American Eclipse. The race was to be decided with the best two in three four-mile heats for a purse of $10,000. Over 60,000 people attended to see American Eclipse contest Henry (only three-years-old and by Sir Archy). Also racing were John Richards and Washington, not tested at such a distance, but with so much time before the race, their owners intended they would be. By the time the race came round, two Southern horses had pulled out: Washington for proving not good enough in his training, and John Richards for injury.[2]

Among the great crowd at Union Course on May 27, 1823 was Andrew Jackson, then American governor of Florida. So was the Vice-President of the United States, Daniel Tompkins, and the infamous Aaron Burr, who had shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel about 19 years earlier (July 11, 1804).

Racing against Henry and ridden by William Crafts, American Eclipse lost the first heat, by a length, (the only time he was ever beaten) to Henry whose time of 7.37 was the best yet seen in America over four miles. American Eclipse, at nine, carried 126 pounds (57 kg) to his much younger rival carrying only 108 pounds (49 kg). The famed turf historian Cadwallader R. Colden (who wrote under the name "An Old Turfman”) said that American Eclipse was ridden badly by Crafts, who whipped and spurred him in the first heat. American Eclipse was defeated for the first time by Henry, in the fastest time ever recorded in America. William Crafts was replaced after this heat, by the noted Samuel Purdy who had retired, but gladly rode a horse he'd ridden in his youth. In the second heat American Eclipse raced close to Henry and went on to win this heat. In the third and last heat, the horses were exhausted, but the older horse, American Eclipse, was the more seasoned horse, as well as the better horse, and he won by three lengths to the jubilation of the North.[2]

In his eight race starts he won eight times, earning $25,000.

Stud record[edit]

He was sold at a public auction for $8,050 to Walter Livingstone who permanently retired him to stud in New York. It was in New York that he sired his best son, Medoc. Then he was sent to Virginia and finally, in 1837, to Kentucky. American Eclipse produced numerous stakes winners and others including, Ariel, a filly who won 42 of 57 starts, including 18 four-mile heats, Black Maria (out of Lady Lightfoot, his old rival) who won 11 races with three- and four-mile heats, Lize (second dam of Enquirer), Ten Broeck (not the Nantura Farm Ten Broeck), Monmouth Eclipse, Bay Maria, and Gano.[3]

Last owned by Jilson Yates, American Eclipse died in Shelby County, Kentucky, in August 1847, when he was 33 years old.

One hundred and twenty three years later, in 1970, he was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.

Tabulated pedigree[edit]

Pedigree of American Eclipse
Florizel Herod
Cygnet mare, 1761
Spectator mare, 1763 Spectator
Tayloe's Grey Diomed Medley
Sloe Mare
Virginia Cade mare  Virginia Cade
Independence Mare
Millers Damsel
Mambrino Engineer
Cade mare, 1751
Turf mare, 1774 Turf
Regulus mare, 1761
Pot8os mare
Pot8os Eclipse
Gimcrack mare, 1778 Gimcrack
Snapdragon (Family: 3-a)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Thoroughbred Heritage Retrieved 2011-1-28
  2. ^ a b Montgomery, E.S, "The Thoroughbred", Arco, New York, 1973 ISBN 0-668-02824-6
  3. ^ Morris, Simon; Tesio Power 2000 - Stallions of the World, Syntax Software

External links[edit]