Equinome, the University College Dublin equine genomics spin-out company, has launched a new genetic test that can identify individual Thoroughbred horses with the greatest genetic potential for racecourse success.
Using the results of the Equinome Elite Performance Test, Thoroughbred horse owners and breeders can now increase their chances of successfully identifying those foals and yearlings most likely to perform at the elite level.
While management and training of Thoroughbreds also influence racing outcomes, several scientific studies have demonstrated that a considerable portion of the variation in racing performance is due to genes. Thoroughbred breeders have known this for centuries, as breeding is predicated on the understanding that certain traits are inherited.
The Equinome Elite Performance Test uses state-of-the-art genomics technologies to examine panels of DNA variants that have been identified as being critical to racing performance. Different sets of genes are used to distinguish between elite performers and poor performers, depending on whether the individual horse is suited to short, middle or long-distance races. This information provides owners and breeders with valuable knowledge about the inherited genetic contribution to the racing ability of their horses.
The test is based upon research carried out by Dr Emmeline Hill, a leading horse genomics researcher, and her research group at UCD's School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine.
Equinome was established in 2009 by Dr Emmeline Hill in partnership with Mr Jim Bolger, the renowned Irish racehorse trainer and breeder. Headquartered at NovaUCD, the University's Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, the company also has laboratory facilities within UCD and at Jim Bolger's training yard in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland.
At the launch of the new test Dr Hill said, "Using the Equinome Elite Performance Test in combination with the Equinome Speed Gene Test, 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."
She added, "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."
This latest development follows the launch in 2010 of Equinome's first test, the Equinome Speed Gene Test. This test resulted from the world's first known characterisation of a gene related to an athletic trait in the Thoroughbred. Equinome has since secured clients in USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, UK, France, Russia and Singapore.
Equinome researchers, in collaboration with UCD, have published more scientific papers on Thoroughbred exercise genomics than any other research group worldwide. Through its associations with top-class breeders and trainers, Equinome has access to large numbers of elite horses at various stages of training and competition that provide subjects for its on-going research programme to identify and characterise the molecular genetic variants underlying key performance and health traits in the Thoroughbred.
The above story is based on materials provided by NovaUCD - The Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre at University College Dublin. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.
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