Why study the genetics of racehorses ?


Understanding the performance of racehorses is absolutely crucial for trainers, owners and everyone involved in the horse racing industry. A horse’s performance is based on many factors including training, nutrition, origin, etc. These factors are all levers that trainers can optimize to boost the performance of racehorses. Obviously, genetics plays an important role in the performance of racehorses, and if pedigrees are perfectly mastered by the racing players, genetics seems to be a lever that is still not very well exploited. 

In order to optimize and improve the performance of racehorses, a lot of research work on genetics has been undertaken. They aim to identify the genomic and genetic parameters that influence performance. The genetic study, by breaking down the genomic regions and their contents, makes it possible to establish correlations between the latter and the performance of the horse studied.

The genetic index

Research work has made it possible to define the genetic index. This index, seeks to estimate the genetic quality of a horse, that is to say its ability to transmit its qualities to its products. It allows to predict the value of the future production of the horse, stallion or brood mare. This index makes it possible to compare several horses between them and to select the best breeding stock. However, this method is not yet optimal either and must be correlated with a coefficient of determination. The latter indicates the precision with which the genetic index has been estimated.

The speed gene

The equine science company Plusvital brought to light in 2015 the existence of “a speed gene.” By isolating this gene, it is possible to get a very accurate idea of the race distance of choice. Indeed, “over 83% of horses with the C:C (sprinter) ‘speed gene’ had an optimal distance of one mile or less.” Similarly, “89% of the horses with the T:T (stayer) “speed gene” ran better at distances longer than a mile. DNA analysis can therefore help in the choice of distance for a racehorse and offer valuable insights into its potential.

Myostatin: a genetic factor influencing distance preference

A study by the BEVA (British Equine Veterinary Association) shows that myostatin (or MSTN) is the most influential genetic factor in the choice of race distance. Indeed, there is a “SINE variant” to MSTN that is only found in Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses. This variant is therefore a sign of strong sprinting abilities in the horse studied, as shown by the recognized abilities of these breeds over short distances. Their study conducted on 3006 horses from all continents seems to be the most successful to date. The NSTM is a lever that can be used to make commitments on the right distances for each horse, according to their genetic abilities.Cloning
The first cloned horse, Prometea, was born in 2003. Today, several companies around the world offer cloning services with constantly improving technologies. The first clones for competition came of age only a few years ago. However, it has not been proven that cloned horses are more likely to perform at the highest level. That’s why in 2013 the FEI lifted the ban on cloned horses competing in international competitions. For the time being, cloned horses cannot be included in the major racing studbooks, including Thoroughbreds, French Trotters, or Arabian Thoroughbreds.

The use of genetics seems to have three concrete fields of application for the moment: the detection of future performers, the better knowledge of natural sport aptitudes and the breeding of sport horses. For people who are interested in horse racing and who bet on a regular basis, it can be helpful to know the importance of genetics and therefore the lineage and origins of running horses in order to make the best choice for your bets. Studies have shown that in thoroughbreds, 30% of racing performance is due to hereditary components. If this is too technical for you, you can find horse racing tips the next day on the internet. Our scientific understanding of the genetics, but also of the organism and physiology of racehorses has increased drastically in recent years. This evolution improves the general performance of racehorses. Nevertheless, it also poses an ethical problem and endangers certain breeds whose genes are not favorable to high level performance.

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