Researchers examining DNA from the skeletons of historic horses – to throw light on diseases in their modern descendants – have solved the mystery of the 1880 Derby.

It has long been disputed that the winner Bend Or was in fact a horse called Tadcaster, but a stewards’ enquiry after the race found for the owners of Bend Or.

Now, work by Cambridge University has established that Bend Or was indeed Tadcaster.

Samples of DNA taken from the skeleton believed to belong to Bend Or have been shown to match living relatives of Tadcaster.

Dr Mim Bower, who led the research, said their work helped scientists understand the genetic history of the thoroughbred.

“It will help us to discover when certain catastrophic genetic diseases might have entered the gene pool,” he said.

This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (7 June 2012)