A skeleton unearthed during the excavation of Newmarket’s historic Palace House Stables could be that of 19th century racehorse Dr Syntax winner of 36 races.
Trained in the north of England where he was the most popular horse of his day, Dr Syntax was put down at Palace House in 1838 at the age of 28. A successful sire he was the great-grandfather of Hermit one of the most successful stallions of the 19th century.
Newmarket’s racing museum curator Graham Snelling said: “It was a very careful digger driver that spotted the skeleton. It would be an amazing find if it turned out to be Dr Syntax. It could also be a royal racehorse. It is very exciting.”
Archaeologist Chris Faine, of Oxford Archaeology, said he was not convinced the skeleton was that of Dr Syntax due to the age of the horse’s teeth.
He said Dr Syntax was born in Yorkshire 1810 and won more than 36 races from 1814 to 1823.
The horse is believed to have been 28 when he died but Mr Faine puts the mystery horse at 18 to 20 years old after examining its teeth.
He said: “There’s no trace of any other injuries on the skeleton. The skull was heavily smashed, which means I can’t tell from it whether it was euthanised.
“I’m told that the preferred method from that period was a medium gauge shotgun behind the ear which wouldn’t have done the skull lot of good anyway. It’s more than possible it was put to sleep.
“It was certainly a racehorse, all the evidence points to that. I don’t think it could be Dr Syntax, but you would have to carry out DNA tests to make sure.
“It was in a specifically dug grave and was not just manhandled in. It could be a royal racehorse, but it is impossible to say for sure. It was carefully buried.”
Mr Snelling, who has been at the museum for 22 years, said he could not say whether it would become an exhibit and would consider a DNA test. He asked anyone who has further information to get in touch.