The Next Three
Through the influence of the big three founding sires came the next three sires who were to become just as important in perpetuating the breed. These three stallions were Matchem, Herod and Eclipse. Each of these immortal horses was considered the best horses of their generation on the track. All future generations of Thoroughbreds thereafter would have these three in their direct male line descent as well.
Many of the sire lines that originated from these stallions are now extinct with the exception of four lines which have branched to become many. Eclipse is the originator of two lines, while Herod and Matchem preside over one each. The two lines of Eclipse are branched directly from sons of the great stallion, while the Herod and Matchem lines became established through future generations.
A bay foaled in 1748, Matchem was only 14.3 hands fully grown. On the race courses however he was both fast and tough. Races were run in two or three heats in those days at distances of around four miles. He was the sire of three hundred and fifty-four winners, which was a huge amount in the early days of turf history. He was a grandson of The Godolphin Arabian as his sire was Cade. His dam, Partner Mare was three generations removed from The Byerley Turk.
His most profound influence in modern male line Thoroughbreds appears through the influential West Australian, who is seven generations removed from Matchem. From here, two very distinct and prosperous branches of his male line continue through Solon and Australian.
Occasionally some very good racers appear from this line and become good sires at stud. However these revivals do not seem to have the everlasting effect as the more dominant lines do. The Solon branch became strong in England as Hurry On can be found here, while the Australian branch became popular in the US due to the influence of Man O’ War.
Herod was a bay foal of 1758 by Tartar – Cypron by Blaze. A fourth generation direct descendant of The Byerley Turk, he also has The Darley Arabian four generations back in his pedigree through his dam. Bred by Prince William, The Duke of Cumberland, he raced from age five to age nine, as was the custom of owners back then to allow the horse to mature before subjecting them to the rigors of racing. The Duke passed away in 1765 and Herod was purchased by Sir John Moore. In his final race, Herod burst a blood vessel in his head and was close to death but somehow managed to survive.
Originally named King Herod his name has been shortened to Herod over time. Herod stood at Netherhall Stud, Bury St. Edmonds, Suffolk where he would lead the sire list from 1777 to 1794 consecutive. Breeders noted him for his courage as a runner and were very keen to breed their best mares to him.
He sired three very important sons who have had an impact as studs. Highflyer, Woodpecker and Florizel all became influential through their own sons. Highflyer was his best son on the track as he was undefeated in twelve races and who in turn sired three Derby winners and four St. Leger winners, while also leading the sire list thirteen times. Florizel sired the first Derby winner Diomed who was to become the first influential sire in the US after his immigration there at the age of twenty-one. Herod’s most prominent direct male line which is still active in today’s Thoroughbreds run through his son Woodpecker and his grandson Buzzard which then branches to both Selim and Castrel.
The Selim branch would become a strong source of winners/champions in France during the early 1900’s through Bruleur – Ksar – Tourbillon. Tourbillon would then branch to Djebel, Goya and Ambiorix. Djebel would sire Djeddah, a strong source of fine broodmares, who in turn sired My Babu, another good broodmare sire. The Castrel branch would eventually lead to The Tetrarch.
One of the greatest Thoroughbreds of all time, Eclipse was so named because he was foaled on April 1, 1764, the day a total eclipse of the sun passed over England. Like Herod, Eclipse was bred by Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland, at Cranbourne Lodge Stud. He was by Marske – Spilletta by Regulus and therefore a great grandson, male line descent, of the Darley Arabian. His dam’s sire was a son of the Godolphin Arabian. Eclipse was a yearling when his breeder passed away and was therefore sold in a dispersal of his stock to William Wildman for seventy-five guineas.
He was reported to be very difficult to handle in training due to his temperament and considerable strength. Wildman agreed to sell the horse in two parts to Colonel Dennis O’Kelly because of this but, O’Kelly had an ace up his sleeve. A stable lad he had in his employ named Sullivan was reputed to be able to handle any horse he came across. Eclipse was no exception and Sullivan had him in good spirit to start his training. The first part of the sale took place in May 1769, after he won his second race, for a 50% share at a price of six hundred and fifty guineas. O’Kelly then purchased the remaining 50% in April 1770 for one thousand and one-hundred guineas.
Eclipse was undefeated in eighteen races. He ran with his head unusually low to the ground, but this was never a hampering issue as he not only won his races but literally dominated his opponents. The saying “Eclipse first, the rest nowhere” was allegedly first said by his proud owner. Whoever the originator of the phrase was, it was a definite and justifiable description of the horse’s race performances.
Eclipse was retired to stud duty at Clay Hill Stud near Epsom in 1771 due to the fact that no one wanted to enter into races against him. At stud he sired three Derby winners and three winners of the then 1200 Guineas Stakes (later to become the 2000 Guineas) and became a much sought after and successful stallion. Oddly, he never led the English sire list but his progeny bred on from strength to strength, to where he became the male line ancestor of most of today’s Thoroughbreds.
One of his Guineas winners, the interestingly named Pot8os, became one of his two most important branches of his male line. Pot8os acquired his name through an interesting tale. Apparently his owner, Willoughby Bertie the fourth Earl of Abingdon, wanted to name him Potatoes and when he informed the horse’s groom to inscribe this name on the stall door, the groom wrote Potoooooooo. Bertie was so amused by the name he kept it in the stud registry. The name was then shortened to Pot8os in future for easier identification. From Pot8os came Waxy who would sire Whalebone. Whalebone’s sons Sir Hercules, Camel and Defence started three branches of influence, with the most notable line through Sir Hercules’ son Irish Birdcatcher.
The other important line from Eclipse was through King Fergus. He would sire Hambletonian, then to Whitelock – Blacklock – Voltaire – Voltigeur – Vedette – Galopin. Galopin would sire St. Simon and Galliard, becoming two very important branches of the Eclipse sire line.
The daughters of Eclipse were also influential in breeding as the fine horses Archduke, Tatar, Haphazard, John Bull, etc were produced from his daughters.
To this day, the exploits of Eclipse are honored in the US as the Eclipse Horse of the Year Award is bestowed on the champion Thoroughbred each year in that country. Also the Eclipse Stakes, run at Sandown over ten furlongs, is a very important Group 1 event in England.