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Posted 22 July 2011

Equinome launches elite performance test for racehorses

University College Dublin spin-out company, Equinome has launched a new genetic test to identify individual Thoroughbred horses with the greatest genetic potential for racecourse success.

Using the results of the Equinome Elite Performance Test, Thoroughbred horse owners and breeders can increase their chances of successfully identifying foals and yearlings most likely to perform at the elite level.

Pictured far right: Co-founders of Equinome: UCD scientists, Dr Emmeline Hill and Irish racehorse trainer and breeder, Mr Jim Bolger.

While racing outcomes are influenced by the management and training of Thoroughbreds, scientific studies have shown that a considerable portion of the variation in racing performance is due to genes. Thoroughbred breeders have known this for centuries, as breeding is predicated on the understanding that certain traits are inherited.

The Equinome Elite Performance Test uses genomics technologies to examine panels of DNA variants that have been identified as being critical to racing performance. Different sets of genes are used to distinguish between elite performers and poor performers, depending on whether the individual horse is suited to short, middle or long-distance races. This information provides owners and breeders with valuable knowledge about the inherited genetic contribution to the racing ability of their horses.

The test is based on research carried out by Dr Emmeline Hill, a leading horse genomics researcher, and her research group at the UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine.
Equinome was established in 2009 by Dr Emmeline Hill in partnership with Mr Jim Bolger, the renowned Irish racehorse trainer and breeder. Headquartered at NovaUCD, the University’s Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, the company also has laboratory facilities within UCD and at Jim Bolger’s training yard in County Kilkenny, Ireland.
“Using the Equinome Elite Performance Test in combination with the Equinome Speed Gene Test, we can now definitively identify the optimum racing distance for an individual racehorse and evaluate their potential for elite performance at that trip,” says Dr Hill.

“This has been enabled by the rapid developments in genome sequencing and the highly advanced genomics technologies that are now available for the horse.”

“It is well-established that there are different metabolic and physiological requirements for short-duration, high-intensity sprint type exercise and longer-duration, more moderate intensity exercise,” adds Dr Hill.

“We have determined that, similarly, the genetic requirements differ for contrasting types of exercise and therefore different sets of genes will contribute to elite performance in each type of Thoroughbred. A one test fits all approach doesn’t seem to be appropriate.”

This latest development follows the 2010 launch of Equinome’s first test, the Equinome Speed Gene Test. This test resulted from the world’s first known characterisation of a gene related to an athletic trait in the Thoroughbred. Equinome has since secured clients in USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, UK, France, Russia and Singapore.

Equinome researchers, in collaboration with UCD, have published more scientific papers on Thoroughbred exercise genomics than any other research group worldwide. Through its associations with leading breeders and trainers, Equinome has access to large numbers of elite horses at various stages of training and competition that provide subjects for its on-going research programme to identify and characterise the molecular genetic variants underlying key performance and health traits in the Thoroughbred.


NovaUCD, the Innovation and Technology Transfer Centre, is the hub of innovation and knowledge transfer activities at University College Dublin. NovaUCD is responsible for the commercialisation of intellectual property arising from UCD research and for the development of co-operation with industry and business.

NovaUCD has been funded through a unique public-private partnership that includes AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Enterprise Ireland, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, UCD and Xilinx.

(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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Pictured far right: Co-founders of Equinome: UCD scientists, Dr Emmeline Hill and Irish racehorse trainer and breeder, Mr Jim Bolger.