Horses for Courses: a DNA-based Test for Race Distance Aptitude in Thoroughbred Racehorses
Emmeline W. Hill, Donal P. Ryan and David E. MacHugh
Affiliation: UCD School of Agriculture and Food Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
Variation at the myostatin (MSTN) gene locus has been shown to influence racing phenotypes in Thoroughbred
horses, and in particular, early skeletal muscle development and the aptitude for racing at short distances. Specifically, a
single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the first intron of MSTN (g.66493737C/T) is highly predictive of best race distance
among Flat racing Thoroughbreds: homozygous C/C horses are best suited to short distance races, heterozygous C/T
horses are best suited to middle distance races, and homozygous T/T horses are best suited to longer distance races. Patent
applications for this gene marker association, and other linked markers, have been filed. The information contained within
the patent applications is exclusively licensed to the commercial biotechnology company Equinome Ltd, which provides a
DNA-based test to the international Thoroughbred horse racing and breeding industry. The application of this information
in the industry enables informed decision making in breeding and racing and can be used to assist selection to accelerate
the rate of change of genetic types among distinct populations (Case Study 1) and within individual breeding operations
(Case Study 2).
Keywords: Thoroughbred, horse, equine genomics, race performance, speed gene, MSTN, SNP, athletics, exercise, muscle
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