Stud’s ‘speed gene’ dates back 300 years

The “speed gene” behind Coolmore stud’s renowned racehorse-breeding reputation could trace back to a single mare that lived around 300 years ago, scientists have found.

The team, led by Univ-ersity College Dublin, spin-off firm Equinome Ltd and the University of Cambridge, have traced all modern variants of the original speed gene to the legendary racehorse Nearctic (1954-1973) and the wider expansion of these variants to Nearctic’s son, Northern Dancer — one of the most influential sires of the 20th century.

Northern Dancer sired 147 stakes winners including the great Nijinsky II, The Minstrel, Shareef Dancer, Secreto, North-ernette, El Gran Senor, Lomond and Fanfreluche.

His son Be My Guest was one of the primary sires responsible for turning the Coolmore stud in Tipperary into one of the most influential thoroughbred breeders in the world.

The origin of the speed gene (C-type myostatin gene variant) was revealed by analysing DNA from hundreds of horses, including DNA extracted from the skeletal remains of 12 celebrated thoroughbred stallions born bet-ween 1764 and 1930.

Dr Emmeline Hill, a co-founder of Equinome, said the speed gene “entered the thoroughbred from a single founder, which was most likely a British mare about 300 years ago, when local British horse types were the pre-eminent racing horses, prior to the formal foundation of the thoroughbred racehorse”.

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