US Jockey Club turns to science to tackle thoroughbred breeding concerns

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Irish equine science company Plusvital has been hired by the Jockey Club in the US to provide expert genomics advice and services as it examines breeding trends in the Thoroughbred.

Plusvital will work with the Jockey Club on an ongoing consultancy basis. The company’s research team is led by Chief Science Officer Professor Emmeline Hill, who first discovered the “Speed Gene” in Thoroughbreds in 2009.

Hill, who also leads a research group at University College Dublin, has extensive experience in Thoroughbred genomics research including investigating inbreeding.

The Jockey Club recently announced that it was considering a cap on the number of breedings allowed for any single stallion in a calendar year, in response to concerns around the narrowing of the diversity of the Thoroughbred gene pool in the US.

It is continuing to study the breed’s gene pool and its cause and potential effects over the course of time.

Professor Hill said Plusvital welcomed the Jockey Club’s proactive approach to addressing the critical issue of Thoroughbred breeding.

Professor Emmeline Hill. © Peter Houlihan/ Fennell Photography

“We believe that genomics should be at the core of measuring the extent of inbreeding in the Thoroughbred as it has the potential to provide solutions beyond pedigree,” Hill said.

“We have always been active in engaging with the wide range of international industry regulatory bodies about our research to emphasise the opportunity genomics offers to support the breed.

“The Jockey Club’s responsibility to ensure the integrity of the breed and our goal to support breeding and management of the Thoroughbred through cutting-edge science demonstrates a shared vision.”

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