One of the hottest discussion topics among breeders is genome testing, which the TBA has been monitoring for some time and figured prominently at our annual seminar last month. It will be reviewed at the AGM in Newmarket on Tuesday, July 5, along with developments in the fillies’ racing programme, of which more later.
Early this year the TBA board decided to take a more pro-active stance on genome testing, and commissioned Dr Peter Webbon, who is well known through his work for the BHB and Animal Health Trust, to lead a team to assess and report on progress in this field, with the intention of providing an objective view on what is available, how useful it is and what other potential uses might be forthcoming from further research.
That genome testing is back under the microscope is the result of recent headlines sparked by publicity from 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold’s Myostatin test to assess whether he would stay the Derby trip.
I cannot imagine that many were surprised by the result. Galileo Gold’s connections decided to miss the Derby, and after running second in the Irish 2,000 Guineas, he beat a top-class field in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
But the test referred only to a speed gene, one very small part of the horse’s genetic make-up, which in most cases merely confirms what one might expect to be the case.
Prof Max Rothschild, who spoke at our seminar, is clear about how complicated the equine genome is to work with, and that it will take many years and many sample tests to make real progress, but I have no doubt that progress will be made and that in time we will see positive health benefits for the thoroughbred industry.
However, the TBA has a duty to see that, as far as possible, the benefits that flow from increased information and objective assessment are shared openly between vets and breeding experts and become available to every breeder. We will work with the international thoroughbred breeders’ organisations to advance that objective.
Breeders take account of genes, and the supposed traits that go with them, in every mating decision
Breeders take account of genes, and the supposed traits that go with them, in every mating decision, just as they consider other important factors, such as racing ability, conformation, soundness and even colour. Determining racing ability is why we breed and race the thoroughbred, so the recent BHA review of Flat racing opportunities for fillies and mares was welcome.
The TBA and BHA have worked together to highlight the progress made in supporting the race programme for fillies and mares, which not only shows a 40% increase in the number of races available for females in the last ten years, but also growth of 650 in the number of fillies rated 85 and above in the same period.
The early stages of the report highlighted gaps in the race programme and the BHA is working with us to address this. The EBF-supported Breeders’ Series is one of a number of welcome incentives that have flowed from the work.
The campaign that has evolved from the report, using the slogan #thisfillycan, aims to raise awareness among buyers, agents, owners and trainers that fillies are well worth buying (see feature pages 52-56). They have numerous opportunities on the racecourse, earn the same or more than their male counterparts and have a re-sale value at the end of their racing careers. The fact that Class 5 fillies’ maidens are also eligible for the Plus 10 bonus should make everyone focus more on the female of the species at the sales.
I am excited by this report and would like to thank the BHA’s racing department for its hard work in distilling the statistics. The real test, though, will be for all of us involved in breeding and racing to carry the campaign forward and prove that fillies are worth more at the sales and that #thisfillycan.