The offspring of expensive stallions owe their success more to how they are reared, trained and ridden than good genes, according to a recent study.
Only 10% of a horse’s lifetime winnings can be attributed to its bloodline, research in Biology Letters claims.
Scientists compared the stud fees, winnings and earnings of more 4000 racehorses since 1922 and found that the vast sums breeders are prepared to pay for top stallions do not guarantee the best genes.
The research, carried out by evolutionary biologists Alastair Wilson and Andrew Rambaut at the University of Edinburgh, found that though the progeny of expensive stallions did tend to win more races over their lifetime, genes played only a small role.
By far the biggest factors were the horse’s environment, the way they were trained, the choice of races entered and which jockeys were employed.
“While there are good genes to be bought,” states the report, ” it does not appear to be the case that you get what you pay for.”
“Rather than having any underlying genetic basis, our analyses show that the phenotypic association between [stud] fees and lifetime earnings arises from environmental, not genetic, effects.
“Thus, it seem probable that breeders who can provide the best environment and expertise for training racehorses are also likely to be those best able to afford the biggest stud fees.”
Extract from Pacemaker February 2008