A horse’s speed and ability to race depend on many factors, and one of them is genetics. In the world of horse racing, genetics play a very important role, which is why most racehorse champions or horses that achieved incredible results are worth a lot of money when it comes to breeding. 

The idea is that a horse with the ability to run fast can pass on their characteristics to the foal.

However, since we live in a digitalized world heavily driven by technology, scientists have researched and have done plenty of genetic testing just so they can identify genes that contribute to athletic superiority.

The idea is that scientists can then engineer a superior racehorse that has the ability to run as fast as the Secretariat. You can visit TwinSpires website to learn more about all the record breaker horses in history: https://www.twinspires.com/200-signup. 

But is this true? And can scientists really engineer the next super racehorse?

Can Scientists Identify Athletic Genes?

Throughout the world of thoroughbred horse racing, genetic testing has become increasingly popular. The speed gene is now at the heart of Bolger’s decisions when he sits down to plan out which of his roughly 100 thoroughbreds to mate each year, as well as when to start training his most promising yearlings. 

Bolger has called it the most important thing that has happened to breed since it began over 300 years ago. 

According to him, it’s possible to create lucrative champions by combining specific gene types from sires and mares. His company sells a speed gene test to fellow breeders and trainers.

It has been a dream of sports scientists to identify genes that contribute to athletic excellence since the human genome was mapped in 2000. 

Back in 2004, the first test purporting to assess athletic potential was introduced in Australia (it arrived in the United States in 2008), a year after a group of researchers published a study linking a single gene to a type of muscle fiber that produces explosive, short-duration bursts of energy in sport such as sprints and powerlifting. 

The Uzbek government announced this January that genetic tests would be used to evaluate future Olympians. 

Geneticists who have been analyzing the genes of the nation’s best athletes for two years will oversee the tests of children as young as 10. A report detailing 50 genes will serve as the basis for their talent search.

DNA Modification in Horse Racing

A new breed of physically superior horses has been created by manipulating gene sequences in cloned horses in Argentina. As well as being able to run faster and jump higher than other racehorses, the “super horse” was engineered to have improved endurance and stamina.

For the purpose of altering specific DNA regions, Kheiron Biotech scientists used a powerful gene editing tool called Crispr. Myostatin is a gene that limits the growth of skeletal muscles. By suppressing myostatin, the horses can build more muscle mass.

With this technique, the experts produced healthy embryos and will implant the embryos into surrogate mothers within the next two years, meaning that we may see the first superhorse as early as next year.

The founder of Kheiron Biotech is Daniel Sammartino, a facility that specializes in cloning horses.

Researchers have developed a genetic index. According to the IFCE, this index can measure a horse’s genetic quality. In other words, the index will tell scientists how well the horse will transmit its qualities to its progeny. 

As a result, you can predict the future value of the horse, stallion, or broodmare”. It allows you to compare several horses and select the best breeding stock. 

This method, however, is not yet optimal and must be correlated with a coefficient of determination. This coefficient indicates how accurately the genetic index was estimated.

What Have Scientists Found Out So Far About Racehorse Genetics?

First of all,  we don’t know much about racehorse genes. Even though there are many studies across the world, most of them don’t have enough data to be considered relevant. 

In fact, the phenomena observed were observed with non-representative samples, reducing their validity. Additionally, this racehorse analysis represents a high cost and is difficult to set up.

In the near future, it is difficult to imagine racehorse genetic analysis becoming democratized. As a result, despite these studies’ acknowledgments, racehorses’ distances and training choices will continue to be influenced by the non-genetic influence of trainers and owners for the next few years.

Approximately 30% of Thoroughbred race performance is determined by genetics and heredity (Gaffney and Cunningham, 1988). 

Based on the breed and discipline, LeCheval estimates that genetics account for between 25 and 45% of sporting performance, comparable to milk production in cattle, a trait so synthetic and complex that it may seem surprising. 

Cloning a crack horse, however, does not guarantee the same level of performance since an infinite number of factors contribute to the remaining performance, from breeding conditions to feeding to training and work accompaniment.

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in scientific knowledge of racehorses, both genetically and biologically. It improves the performance of racehorses in general. However, it poses an ethical issue and endangers certain breeds whose genes aren’t suitable for high performance.

Final Words

Even though we’ve seen plenty of progress in scientific research for manipulating horses’ genes, it is very unlikely that this will become the practice in the future.

In other words, the horse’s ability to run is not only determined by its genes. In fact, a large percentage of his athletic abilities comes down to the breeding process, food, and training.

This means that even though scientists can create a horse with more athletic characteristics, this won’t guarantee the success of the horse on the big racing scene.

Another problem that this procedure will unlock is the ethical part of DNA manipulation and cloning. Horse racing is already considered by most people unethical even, and the horse racing community won’t allow these allegations to go any further by incorporating cloning.

Therefore, even if scientists find a way to successfully clone athletic abilities from a horse, chances are that this won’t become a practice for the world of horse racing, at least for now.