Irish researchers discover horse 'speed gene' in breeding boost

Claire Murphy

Irish researchers have identified a 'speed gene' in racehorses representing a massive breakthrough for the horsebreeding industry.

Experts believe that the research will be of huge interest to the international, multi-billion-euro horsebreeding world.

Dr Emmeline Hills, in partnership with racehorse trainer Jim Bolger, completed the research at UCD.

Up until now, breeders have had to rely on combining successful blood-lines in the hope that the resulting foal will contain that winning combination of genes.

"It is the first time anybody has identified a gene which assists with racing performance," Dr Hills explained. "It will fundamentally change the way people think about breeding and decision making."

"This is the culmination of years of research identifying the genes," she told the Herald.

Breeders, stallion managers and bloodstock agents will be able to use the test to make more precise selection and reduce much of the uncertainty which has been typically involved.

It will now be possible to definitively know a horse's genetic type within three weeks of a sample being taken.

The researchers have established a private firm, Equinome, to and have already received queries from a number of horsebreeders.

John O'Connor, managing director at Ballylinch Stud, Co Kilkenny, said that they are interested in using the technology. "This highly valuable tool [will] fine-tune decision making in our operation," he said.