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Thoroughbred Genetics Ltd., Kent                                                                                          March 18, 2006

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GENETICISTS IDENTIFY ‘PERFORMANCE GENE’ COMBINATIONS IN RACEHORSES

An organization based in the UK has published ground-breaking genetic research which could have enormous implications for the way thoroughbred racehorses are bred, trained and raced.  Thoroughbred Genetics Ltd has published the results of a six-year study in the international peer-reviewed journal, Mitochondrion. ­ It is the first proof that there is an association between genes and their role in the individual performances of racehorses. The publication is currently available on the journal’s website and will be available in printed format in April. 

In the largest published equine genetics study of its kind, Dr Stephen Harrison and Mr Juan Luis Turrion-Gomez, detected variations in eight athletically-important genes in DNA samples, taken from 1000 thoroughbred racehorses, including classic winners.  Each thoroughbred breeding line possesses different variant combinations of these performance-related genes.  Each combination gives a horse a different racing aptitude, ie, one horse may possess the gene combination of a sprinter, while another horse will have a combination best suited to a distance of 1½ miles.  These gene combinations form part of a group that is inherited solely from the dam on a molecule called mitochondrial DNA.  The genes contribute to biochemical systems involved in energy release and respiration in the muscles and have a direct impact on the optimum performance of a racehorse.   

Dr Harrison and his team have been able to identify the mitochondrial DNA types of all big race winners in the major racing nations going back as far as 100 years. 

In the Mitochondrion study, trends observed for the genetic types of winners of 21 of the UK’s premier races indicate significant leanings of certain genetic types and carriers of specific gene variants to perform well over specific distances.  For instance, a potential Derby winner (1½ miles) is more likely to be of a different genetic type to a 2000 Guineas (1 mile) winner.  The data also shows that over the last 100 years, the highest percentage of Derby, Guineas or other premier race winners comes from a particular genetic type suited to the respective distance and sometimes the racecourse itself.  Dr Harrison says: “We anticipate that the data will help trainers identify from day one, optimum running distances for horses, develop appropriate training regimes and help target specific races which will suit the horses’ individual genetic profiles.“ 

The study has also allowed the team to make genetic corrections to historical errors in the thoroughbred studbook.  By identifying mitochondrial types, over half of all recognized female family lines, are shown to have been incorrectly recorded to some degree, some errors appearing to be as recent as the late 1970s (before genetic parentage testing). This is alarmingly more so than first thought.   Dr Harrison:  “This means that we can more accurately assess which versions of these important genes particular horses will carry and tailor their breeding and racing careers to make the most of their genetic capability.” 

Thoroughbred Genetics has constructed genetic databases, which can be used in conjunction with confirmatory DNA tests, to improve the ways in which breeders co-ordinate the mating of stallions and mares through the better matching of stamina components.  Certainly, it is also clear that there are positive and negative interactions between specific sires and mares of particular genetic types. 

The study has also thrown up interesting results regarding the effectiveness of the different genetic types at various racing ages and the relationships of the genes studied in the publication to other similar genes involved in muscular energy release. 

These findings are only the tip of the iceberg.  They form part of a larger study which has allowed Thoroughbred Genetics to develop genetic databases covering national racing in the USA and Australia, which vary in their racing requirements from Europe. 

For further information on this work, Thoroughbred Genetics, its products and services for the international bloodstock and racing industries please contact +44 (0)1795 411544 or office@thoroughbredgenetics.com   The company’s updated website is located at www.thoroughbredgenetics.com where visitors may download information and the current MITOCHONDRION publication.

 -          e n d s –

Media information please contact:  Ann Miller + 44 (0)1795 411544 or +44 (0)7973 233968.

am@thoroughbredgenetics.com                              www.thoroughbredgenetics.com

Note to editors:

Thoroughbred Genetics Ltd is the first commercial organisation in the field of equine genetics in the

world. We are already building a strong clientele. Tests have been carried out on Classic and

Graded race winners from UK, Ireland, France, Australia and USA. In the past year alone, we have

provided genetics advice for over 600 BLACK TYPE mare matings.

 

We have provided information on the genetic status and management of GR1 races, including the

Derby, Oaks, Japan Cup, Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Eclipse, International, Moyglare, Fillies’

Mile, Ribblesdale, Matriarch, Yellow Ribbon, Beverly D and Test Stakes, the Beverley Hills

Handicap, American Oaks, Breeders Cup Turf and Mile and Melbourne Cup.

 

British company, Thoroughbred Genetics, is based at Kent Science Park. It provides an exclusive,

invaluable service for progressive Thoroughbred breeders in both hemispheres. To enhance

traditional and practical information obtained from pedigree, commercial and performance trends, the

company employs new, state-of-the-art DNA technologies to provide a thoroughly updated

mechanism for assessing breeding and sales strategies for the 21st century.

 

Routine genetic analysis has been commonly applied to agricultural animals such as sheep and cattle

to enhance their genetic management and yields, yet thoroughbred breeding, which is itself a

genetics business, has, largely been neglected by advances in DNA technology. Thoroughbred

Genetics is changing that and is accelerating developments in equine breeding by introducing

innovative, effective and dynamic genetic technologies to benefit thoroughbred breeding programs.

 
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