Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Equinome's Dr. Emmeline Hill says "Test for the Best"

It’s impossible for buyers to discern the genetic potential of racing prospects by using traditional conformation and pedigree analysis, according to equine geneticist Dr. Emmeline Hill who spoke today at the Pedigree, Genetics, and Performance Conference sponsored by The Blood-Horse in Lexington, KY.

Dr. Hill cited a study demonstrating that yearling buyers paid just as much for inferior horses as they did for the ones who were most successful on the track, noting that  a thoroughbred's genetic class is a more accurate predictor of its eventual earnings than the price it commands in the auction ring.

Dr. Hill is the Chairman and co-founder of Equinome, which has developed state-of-the-art genomic tools to evaluate the genetic potential of thoroughbred racehorses.  Based in Dublin, Equinome has identified the different sets of genetic variants critical for performance in short-distance, middle-distance, and long-distance racing, and has made this data available to thoroughbred owners, breeders, and prospective purchasers through its Speed Gene Test, which measures a DNA variant--“C” or “T”—in a gene responsible for muscle mass development.

Equinome has determined that there are three possible combinations of these DNA variants:  C:C (characteristic of fast, speedy, sprint types who best compete from distances from five to eight furlongs); C:T (characteristic of fast, middle-distance types whose best distances are from seven to 12 furlongs); and T:T (characteristic of stamina types whose best distances are 10 furlongs and over).  The T:T horses are not well-suited for success as two-year-olds.  In fact, a study of 142 two-year-olds in England who were all trained by the same trainer demonstrated that the C:C and C:T types earned the most money as juveniles.

Equinome's Elite Performance Test evaluates 80 genetic variants to measure an individual's potential racing class, ranking individuals from Class I to Class IV.   In a study of 1,051 racing thoroughbreds who had been tested, Equinome found that Class I-rated horses were six times more likely to become Grade I or Grade II winners than to be non-winners, and that 46% of the Class I runners became elite (graded or listed) stakes winners.

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