Make-up of one gene points to racing success of Arabian horses, say researchers

The need for speed: One particular gene has been found to have a major influence on racing performance.
The need for speed: One particular gene has been found to have a major influence on racing performance.

Variations within a particular gene in Arabian horses show potential as an indicator of race performance, according to researchers.

Arabian horses are among the oldest and most popular horse breeds in the world, recognised for their athleticism and stamina.

The breed is commonly used in the discipline of Endurance. However, in some countries, 2 to 5-year-olds are introduced to flat race training and often compete in at least one racing season before achieving maturity and undergoing endurance training.

During intensive training, the rates of lactate production and use are critical to avoid muscle fatigue, resulting in a decrease in exercise performance.

The key factor determining transmembrane lactate transport is the monocarboxylate transporter 1 protein coded for by the SLC16A1 gene.

Katarzyna Ropka-Molik and her colleagues identified variations within this gene and evaluated their potential association with race performance.

For their study, reported in the journal BMC Genetics, they examined the make-up of the SLC16A1 gene in 254 Arabian horses who competed in flat races.

The shorter races in which they competed were 1400m, while middle distance races were between 1600m and 2000m. The longer distance races were between 2200m and 3000m.

They compared the genetic results of each horse in terms of the make-up of the SLC16A1 gene with their racing results.

Horses with two particular variations were found to be more likely to finish first or second, compete in more races, and collect more in stakes.

Their analysis also indicated that some variations increased the chances of winning over certain distances. Indeed, the shorter distance races were won only by horses with the TT gene configuration.

The GG and TG horses took first and second places in middle and long-distance races.

The researchers said the results provide a basis for further research to validate the use of the SLC16A1 gene as a potential marker associated with racing performance.

The full study team comprised Ropka-Molik, Tomasz Szmatoła, Katarzyna Piórkowska and Monika Bugno-Poniewierska, all with the National Research Institute of Animal Production; and Monika Stefaniuk-Szmukier, with the University of Agriculture in Cracow.

The use of the SLC16A1 gene as a potential marker to predict race performance in Arabian horses
Katarzyna Ropka-Molik, Monika Stefaniuk-Szmukier, Tomasz Szmatoła, Katarzyna Piórkowska & Monika Bugno-Poniewierska
BMC Geneticsvolume 20, Article number: 73 (2019),

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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