The Speed Gene

Not Own Photo, in process of referencing/deleting.

For those of you who follow horse racing, you might have heard about the ‘speed’ gene. Despite how it is often described, speed and racing performance is not dictated by this one gene, it is influenced by lots of genes and by environmental factors, especially training. However, this speed gene is becoming more known all the time. I wrote an assignment on it at University last year and after it came up in a lecture on Thursday, I decided I would write a post about it.

There are two alleles looked at when looking at the speed gene, the C allele and the T allele. The C allele is associated with short distance and speed. The T allele is associated with stamina and long distance. The C allele is also associated with success as 2 and 3 year olds. Therefore, if you wanted to have a winning 2 year old sprinter, you would want to have a horse with a CC genotype. Whereas, if you wanted to National Hunt horse to be successful at later ages, you would want a horse with a TT genotype.

Genetic Type
(MSTN gene)
Best Race Distance Precocity Breeding Potential
C:C Fast, speedy sprint type
(1000 – 1600m; 5 – 8 furlongs)
Average age at first win:
32 months
Can only produce sprint (C:C) or middle-distance (C:T) type horses
C:T Middle-distance type
(1400 – 2400m; 7 – 12 furlongs)
Average age at first win:
35 months
Can produce sprint (C:C), middle-distance (C:T) or staying (T:T) type horses
T:T Enhanced stamina
(2000m and over; 10+ furlongs)
Average age at first win:
40 months
Can only produce middle-distance (C:T) or staying (T:T) type horses

Some trainers have started testing horses before they start training them, to give an idea of what potential they have. Many stallions are being tested for this gene with the results going on their stud card. The only testing facility I am aware of (although I’m sure there must be others!) is Equinome. They boast >90% accuracy prediction of the horse’s optimum race distance based on the results of this test.

If you are interested in racehorse/thoroughbred genetics, do visit the Equinome website. It has a lot of information about the different tests they offer and test results for stallions all over the world.

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