Equine breeding pioneer, “Twink” Allen dies at 80

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Professor William ‘Twink’ Allen, who has died at the age of 80.
Professor William ‘Twink’ Allen, who has died at the age of 80. (Supplied/NZ Thoroughbred Marketing)

Renowned equine reproduction expert “Twink” Allen has died at the age of 80 after a short illness.

New Zealand born Professor William “Twink” Allen died on June 6.

Allen had been a well-known figure in England’s thoroughbred hub, Newmarket, for many years and is the father of Catherine Dettori, wife of jockey Frankie.

He was particularly known for his work in assisted reproductive technologies, carrying out pioneering methods of embryo recovery and transfer in mares and studies of hormones and ultrasonography.

Equine Veterinarians Australia described Allen as a “godfather of equine reproduction”.

“So many of our routine procedures in horse breeding are with thanks to Twink. He has left a great legacy.”

A graduate of veterinary medicine from the University of Sydney, he was a director of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Equine Fertility Unit, a professor at the University of Cambridge and held numerous other research positions. He was awarded a CBE in 2002, Fellowship of The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (FRCVS) by thesis, elected to the Polish Academy of Sciences, Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Krakow, Gent and Helsinki and was elected to the Hall of Fame for Equine Research in the US, and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Symposia of Equine Reproduction Committee.

Allen retired from the University of Cambridge in 2007, and was the honorary director at the Paul Mellon Laboratory of Equine Reproduction in Newmarket from 2008 to 2015, when he became director of the Equine Reproduction Laboratory, Sharjah Equine Hospital, in the UAE.

In a biography on the Society for Reproduction and Fertility, Allen described several career highlights, including carrying out the first embryo transfers in horses and donkeys, and the development and practical application of both surgical and non-surgical methods of embryo recovery and transfer in the mare. He described how, in 1974, with Franseca Stewart and Alan Trownson, “the successful transport of six horse embryos in the oviducts of two rabbits by car to Krakow in Poland in 1974 for transfer to recipient mares there, with the birth of three live foals in 1975”.

Allen was also behind the early development and practical application of the technique of transrectal ultrasonography in thoroughbreds for the accurate visual assessment of follicular growth, ovulation and corpus luteum development and for the early accurate diagnosis of single and twin pregnancy and early pregnancy failure.

Allen was also among those responsible for organising and running of the First International Symposium of Equine Reproduction in Cambridge in July, 1974.

NZ Thoroughbred Marketing

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