Photo courtesy Science Magazine

Photo courtesy Science Magazine

can science identify
the next secretariat?

dr. emmeline hill

Aired July 19, 2019

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Everyone knows one horse can run faster than the other, and they ask, “Which one?” But young Emmeline wanted to know, “Why?”

Humans love horses. We all know this. And just one expression of this passion is to breed horses for particular jobs — a skill that has historically been based upon horsemanship, knowledge of bloodlines, and a significant amount of instinct.

We also know that each foal brings with it a genetic legacy with the potential for qualities that make for a talented jumper, or a superb cutting horse, or a blazing fast racehorse.

Geneticist Dr. Emmeline Hill’s breakthrough discovery of the “speed gene” means that Thoroughbred breeders have something more than instinct to rely on. That’s because her discovery can predict a horse’s optimal race distance by examining its DNA to determine whether it possesses genes that are more suited to sprints, to middle distance, or to longer races.

But it could also have the added benefit of helping racehorses who might otherwise get labeled “too slow” when, in fact, they may actually be fast enough, IF they are entered in the correct distance races. Just think about the numbers of horses whose lives could be improved… or maybe even saved.