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Equinome launches new genetic performance test

IRISH-BASED equine genetics company Equinome has launched a new genetic test to identify horses with a greater chance of performing at a high level. The new test follows the launch last year of the Speed Gene test, which places a horse in one of three categories for likely optimum race distance. The company was set-up in 2009 by University College Dublin researcher, Dr Emmeline Hill in association with trainer and breeder Jim Bolger.

Foal - Coolmore

The Equinome test allows breeders to 'evaluate a horse's potential for elite performance at a given trip'

  PICTURE: Edward Whitaker (racingpost.com/photos) 

Hill said: "We can now definitively identify the optimum racing distance for an individual racehorse and evaluate their potential for elite performance at that trip. This has been enabled by the rapid developments in genome sequencing and the highly advanced genomics technologies that are now available for the horse.

"We scanned the genome of 400 thoroughbreds. Of those, 200 had won at Group or Listed level and the others had raced without winning. There were different genes contributing to elite performance in horses that were better over sprint distances compared to those who raced over further, which is unsurprising considering the different metabolic and physiological requirements for short-duration, high-intensity sprint type exercise and longer-duration, more moderate intensity exercise.

"It is not a ‘one test fits all' approach. First we do the speed gene test to establish whether a horse is a ‘CC' (sprinter), ‘TT' (stayer) or ‘CT' (intermediate). For the Elite Performance Test, we test a different panel of genes for each of the three distance types and we look at around 30 to 40 genes in each panel. Thecombination of advantageous DNA variants in these genes determines whether a horse is categorised as Class 1, 2, 3 or 4 for elite performance potential.

"We've evaluated these gene panels in a group of 1,000 horses. Those who were genetically Class 1 had a far greater chance of winning Group races than Class 4 horses. It's about probabilities.

"Of the Class 1 horses, 46 per cent had won at Group level compared to less than four per cent of Class 4 horses.If you consider that in the normal population only upwards of 2 per cent of horses win at Group level then Class 4 horses had a 110-1 greater chance of never winning than they had of winning a Group race, whereas in Class 1 horses the chance was 2.5-1."

She added: "The test must be used in conjunction with traditional selection tools and assessment of the individual."

Equinome charges €1,450 for the Speed Gene Test plus the Elite PerformanceTest and €590 for the Speed Gene Test alone.

The test requires a blood sample and evaluates the genetic make-up of a horse in genes that are associated with a range of biological functions, many of which relate to the efficiency of energy production at a cellular level.

 

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