Stakes and Spuds - The story of Pot8os
On the 19th April the Craven Stakes will be run at the Rowley Mile, Newmarket,
almost one month and 236 years to the day that a famous son of Eclipse was victorious in that very race. On Monday 18th March 1782 Pot8os took the race from thirteen, mostly younger, horses.
Pot8os? I hear you say… did a starchy vegetable win the race or a horse?! Don’t worry Pot8os was a horse, a very successful one in fact. He won 34 of his 40 races amongst these the Jockey Club Purse, three times, the Jockey Club Plate and the Clermont Cup. In 1783 he retired to stud and was just as successful there. He produced 172 winners, amongst them three Derby winners; Waxy, Champion and Tyrant. He made the Eclipse line one of the most dominant in the modern Thoroughbred population.
Racehorses often have quirky names but where did the unusual spelling of
Pot8os originate? The story goes that Lord Abingdon, the horse’s breeder, instructed a semi-literate stable boy to write the name ‘Potato’ on the stable door. The lad wrote Potoooooooo. The spelling stuck until Lord Grosvenor bought the horse in 1778 and ‘Pot8o’ came into use. Subsequent variations include
Pot 8 os and Pot-8-os.
In 1796, Lord Grosvenor, downsized his stud and moved his stallions to Eaton, Cheshire. Horse transport was uncommon at the time and the stallions were moved on foot. Pot8os was considered too old to walk that far and was retired to Hare Park just outside Newmarket. He died there in 1800 and was buried under a cedar tree.
In 1990 a cedar tree at Hare Park was blown down in a storm exposing the skeleton of a horse tangled in the roots. The tree was cut down and the root ball replaced to cover the bones. Some years later Hare Park was sold and when the new owners heard about this skeleton they decided to investigate and in 2010 the skeleton excavated. The circumstantial evidence suggested it could be the skeleton of Pot8os. Samples were taken for scientific analysis to try and establish the identity through maternal DNA. Considering the potential age of the skeleton it had survived burial and partial disturbance well and in 2016 was able to re-articulated for display at the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing & Sporting Art.
Affectionately known as Spuds, the skeleton now takes pride of place in the first of the King’s Yard galleries. If you are coming to Newmarket Races for the Craven, why not visit the National Heritage Centre and the former Craven Stakes winner in his new resting place?
Written by Briony Jackson, Science Curator