One of the most fascinating lectures was delivered by Ireland’s Dr Emmeline Hill, who is the co-founder and chairman of Equinome. This company was launched in the wake of the discovery of the “speed gene”. Equinome’s speed gene test separates horses into C:C, C:T or T:T types. The first of them can only produce speedy or middle distance types, the second can produce sprint, middle distance or staying types and the last can only produce middle distance or staying types. C:C horses have been shown to be leaders in earnings as two-year-olds, but the other two types earn more over their entire careers. The tests have shown that genetic type can seldom be determined from pedigree.
The sire and dam will only pass on one copy of their DNA variant (either ‘C’ or ‘T’), so for example the mating of a C:T to a C:T could produce a C:C, a C:T or a T:T. This would explain how one of South Africa’s best sprint stallions, Harry Hotspur, produced the Gr 2 Natal Oaks winner Danseuse Classique when mated to the staying mare Lavender Bag.
Equinome also offers an “elite performance test” for both racing and breeding. The Genomic Racing Value Test analyses over 1000 gene variants and has proved more than twice as accurate as pedigree analysis. They also provide a projected height test and another test which identifies the true level of inbreeding by analysing the number of duplicate genetic variants that have been inherited from the sire and dam.
Equinome’s methods contrasted strongly with those of Maine Chance Farms’ stud manager John Slade. Slade revealed that his matching of mares to stallions took obvious nicks into account, but was also based more on conformation type and a gut feel as opposed to a scientific approach. Maine Chance Farms recently achieved a possible world first when three horses they bred, all by their stallion Silvano, finished first, second and third respectively in the country’s premier race, the Vodacom Durban July.
Early in the series the UK-based former Fleet Street racing journalist and now broadcaster/tipster Neil Morrice delivered an entertaining account of “the horses and people I have known” and revealed that he likely has the world’s biggest Lester Piggott memorabilia collection because he often asks the legendary jockey to sign such things as old racecards for charitable concerns. He idolises Piggot and, rather than being intimidated by his notoriously taciturn personality, he savours every moment of his company. When Piggot looks at a racecard and mumbles “that was a good race”, “you know that it was a good race.”
Justin Vermaak later produced a professional presentation together with Bernard Fayd’Herbe. Vermaak is doing a lot to attract newcomers to the game through his Green Street Bloodstock ownership syndicate. The syndicate’s first horse Miss Nightingale won first time out and this helped the membership numbers to expand dramatically.
Vermaak is only 27 but has already been an assistant trainer, a handicapper, jockeys agent to some of the best in the country, including champion S’Manga Khumalo, and racing manager for Maine Chance Farms. He is also a well know racing analyst and tipster on Tellytrack and has found time to run a style lounge at Greyville which aims at educating newcomers to the game, a process which was started by Durban’s youthful 3A Racing Syndicate.
The star studded line of speakers also included Chris van Niekerk, Barry Bowditch (an Australian Magic Millions manager), Grant Burns (Australian-based bloodstock agent and auctioneer), Antony Thompson (head of Australia’s fabled Widden Stud), Professor Brian Kantor (economy and finance expert), Dr Monty Saulez (equine veterinarian), Professor Martin Schulman (Animal Reproduction expert), Jay Harrielal (National racing fixtures Programmer), Hazel Kayiya (School of Equine Management Excellence graduate and overseer of Gold Circle’s Human Resources and Remuneration) and Rob Caskie (renowned African history storyteller).
The two day series ended with a speech by artist Shirley Kantor, who discussed Horses In Art. The magnificent animal has always had aesthetic appeal and has often been cleverly used in art, including in one famous painting of King Charles I, England’s probable shortest ever king, who was made to look tall and dapper aboard a horse in a famous painting by Anthony van Dyck.
Article by David Thiselton / Sunday Tribune
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