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Dublin: 8 °C Saturday 25 January, 2020

And they're off: Irish scientists develop genetic test to find tomorrow's top racehorses

New genomics technology will increase the chances of successfully identifying foals and yearlings who are most likely to emerge in the winner’s enclosure.

Image: Nick Potts/PA Wire/Press Association Images

MOST OF US study the form, listen to the pundits or stick a pin in the newspaper to pick a winner – but science just caught up with horse racing.

An Irish equine genomics company Equinome – a so-called spin-out from University College Dublin – has launched a new genetic test that, they say, identifies individual thoroughbred horses with ‘the greatest genetic potential for racecourse success’.

Breeders have always known, of course, that genes are a crucial factor in finding winners with the stud business worth billions, worldwide.

The Equinome Elite Performance Test uses state-of-the-art genomics technologies to examine the parts of a horse’s DNA which are relevant to racing. The innovation is based on research carried out by Dr Emmeline Hill and her research group at UCD’s School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine.

At the launch of the new test today, Hill said,

“It is well-established that there are different metabolic and physiological requirements for short-duration, high-intensity sprint type exercise and longer-duration, more moderate intensity exercise. We have determined that, similarly, the genetic requirements differ for contrasting types of exercise and therefore different sets of genes will contribute to elite performance in each type of Thoroughbred.

“A one-test-fits-all approach doesn’t seem to be appropriate,” she added.

Equinome was established in 2009 by Hill in partnership with renowned Irish racehorse trainer and breeder Jim Bolger.

Though head-quartered at NovaUCD, the university’s Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, they also have facilities on campus and at Bolger’s yard in Kilkenny.

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