In the bestselling tradition of Seabiscuit, the extraordinary true story of the world's most famous racehorse, and the rogue who owned him.
Epsom Downs, 3rd May, 1769: a chestnut with a white blaze scorches across the turf towards the finishing post. His four rivals are so far behind him that, in racing terms, they are ‘nowhere’. Awestruck, his spectators know they are in the presence of greatness.
Among the crowd are two men who, according to the tradition of the Sport of Kings, should not be associated with the horse who will become its greatest exponent. One, Eclipse’s owner, is a meat salesman. The second, who wants to own Eclipse, is an adventurer who has made his money through roguery and gambling. He is also the companion of the madam of one of London’s most notorious brothels.
While this man will remain an outcast to the racing establishment, Eclipse will go on to become the undisputed, undefeated champion of his sport. He will found dynasties that will dominate the bloodstock market – not only in Britain, but in every other country where Thoroughbreds race. His influence will be such that ninety-five per cent of horses racing today are his male-line descendants.
This is a vivid portrait of high and low life; of princes, paupers and prostitutes; an era of passionate sport, ferocious gambling, and uninhibited sex. It’s the story of a rank outsider who went on to become a national celebrity; and of the horse that became a national icon, and whose influence is transcendent 200 years later.
“A ripping yarn expertly told: part Flashman at the Races; part Seabiscuit without the schmaltz.”
“Clee combines the story of Eclipse's racing and breeding career with the lives of those who bred and owned him, a crowd who were racy in every conceivable sense.”
“Clee knows how to tell a gripping story: he weaves the halves together into a well-written narrative of social change... fascinating.”
“This splendid book...This is a read bursting with life, and Clee has the balance and worldliness to weigh all his material with sense and perspective. No racing home should be without it.”
“It brings to life a horse that has left behind a matchless legacy. For the casual reader, it is an enjoyable romp through a period knee-deep in fops, fools and fraudsters.”
Independent on Sunday
“Nicholas Clee has taken one of the greatest of all racing stories and brought it wonderfully back to life”
“A compelling and brilliantly researched reflection of the era which featured one of racing's most renowned equine heroes -- Eclipse”
SIR PETER O'SULLEVAN
“Clee does a brilliant job of conjuring up the rollicking Georgian London inhabited by Dennis O'Kelly and his brothel-keeping mistress.”
Seven, Daily Telegraph
“A colourful romp through Georgian London and its scoundrels and chancers.”