Does DNA Influence a Horse Race?

Horses bought and bred for speed and endurance are the cornerstone of today’s billion-dollar racing industry. For centuries, owners have tracked elite horses in search of the best racers. Thoroughbred horses relate to one of 33 horses that participated in the 1791 General Studbook race, and new scientific discoveries explain why certain horses are better racers. A study determined that genetic DNA related to the myostatin gene is a factor in whether a horse will win races, and at which age they are likely to become champions.

Equine genetic profiling is still in its infancy, but research breakthroughs are giving owners more information about how to pick a winner. Thanks to the work of Dublin Hill, a geneticist, owners can also evaluate how to mate horses who are likely to produce a winning offspring, based on the presence of the “speed gene”.

In fact, scientists use computer programmes to cross-reference DNA. However, thanks to Hill’s research, there’s a better understanding of what to look for in a race horse’s genetic makeup. Each horse’s gene blueprint has up to 2.4 million DNA building blocks. It’s these proteins which set the horse’s speed, endurance, colour, and size. By analysing the DNA of 148 thoroughbred horses, Hill made a remarkable discovery. Genetic type correlates to success in sprint races or long distance races. According to the research, the owner’s are likely to determine whether or not they have a winning horse by analysing a horse’s DNA. They’ll know a horse’s likelihood to win before it ever sets foot on the track.

The theory that a single gene can predict a horse’s winning likelihood has held up, so far. However, it’s not the only factor in determining a winner. Owners still search for horses with the perfect blend of muscles, body type, and heart.