Farm Ireland

Saturday 16 December 2017

Racehorse speed gene powers UCD company into the fast lane

Caitriona Murphy

Caitriona Murphy

Thoroughbred racing is set to be transformed by a breakthrough genetic test that can identify a horse's speed gene.

The test, launched by new Irish biotech team Equinome, can identify the optimum racing distance for individual horses.

Using the Equinome Speed Gene test, racehorse owners will be able to identify if a horse is suited to short, middle or middle-to-long distance racing.

The information will help owners and trainers optimise buying and training decisions, and target suitable races for their horses, while breeders can make more precise breeding decisions to maximise genetic and commercial values.

Equinome, a UCD spin-out company, was co-founded last year by Dr Emmeline Hill, a horse genomics researcher in the UCD School of Agriculture, and horse trainer Jim Bolger.

Dr Hill's research was the first academic programme in the world to apply genomics technology to identify genetic contributions to race performance in thoroughbred horses, and was funded by Science Foundation Ireland.

"Breeders currently rely on combining successful bloodlines together, hoping that the resulting foal will contain that winning combination of genes.

"[But] it will now be possible to definitively know a horse's genetic type within weeks of a sample being taken," she said.

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Equinome and the test will be formally launched at Friday's ITBA Expo.

Irish Independent