SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – The oldest home in Sacramento not only holds that distinction, it’s also the burial ground of a well-known racehorse.

The back used to be the front of the oldest home in Sacramento. Built around 1856, it was once the caretaker’s home for a 44,000-acre horse breeding and racing operation, called “Rancho Del Paso.”

“We worked hard at keeping the integrity of the architecture similar to the original architecture,” Rick Niello said.

Slideshow: Tour Sacramento’s Oldest Home

Owners Rick and Teri Niello have picked up artifacts from the property over the years. But that’s not the most intriguing part of this suburban Sacramento home.

“Well, you know that he’s buried on the property somewhere,” Rick said.

Beneath what’s left of the oldest oak tree is said to be buried American thoroughbred racehorse “Salvator.”

“To the best of our knowledge and with the homework that we’ve done on the property, this is exactly where we think the horse is, yes,” said Rick as he stood in front of the oak on Wednesday.

Salvator was considered one of the best racers in the late 1800s. When he died in 1909, the oak was planted as his headstone. The property has a rich history with horses – it also produced Kentucky Derby winner “Ben Ali” in 1886. James Ben Ali Haggin owned the property after getting rich in the Gold Rush.

Asked if he’d ever considered doing any exploratory digging around the oak tree, Rick said some things are best left alone.

“No, I don’t think we have,” he said. “I think the mystery of Salvator should remain a bit of a mystery, so I don’t think we’ll do any digging here.”

Though they’ve never seen any equine apparitions, the Niellos have had things go bump in the night.

“I’m not really a believer in those sorts of things, but I have to say, I was intrigued by some of the noises we’ve heard here,” Rick said.

And though it could just be horseplay, they plan to let buried horses lie.


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