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Owners ‘waste thousands on top stud fees’
RACEHORSE owners could be wasting thousands on expensive top-end stud fees for horses that may fail to end up champions, according to a new study.  
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh claim research has shown that up to 90 per cent of a horse's lifetime winnings can be attributed to how the horse is reared, trained and ridden – and not how it is bred or its parentage.  
The study, published in Biology Letters journal, compared the stud fees, winnings and lifetime earnings of more than 4,000 thoroughbred horses used for racing and breeding since 1922.  
They found that although there is genetic variation for how much prize money a horse wins, paying out higher stud fees does not necessarily buy access to the best genes.  
Dr Alastair Wilson, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Biological Sciences, who led the selective breeding research, said: “The offspring of expensive stallions might tend to win more money, but not necessarily because they have inherited the best genes.  
“It is likely that those breeders who are best able to pay high stud fees are also those who are able to spend more on care of the horse, how it is trained and who rides it, all of which will contribute more to how much it will win. Of course, if every breeder is spending a lot on the care and training of the horse, then the difference between winning or losing will come down to the smaller details, such as who the parents are.  
“So picking the best genes can give an edge, but it is by no means clear that the best genes come with the highest price tag.”  
Horseracing is a multi-million pound industry and the high stakes mean that breeders will spend vast sums of money trying to buy the best genes for their horses. Breeders are prepared to pay extra if a stallion and its offspring have a good reputation. However, with the increasing availability of hi-tech training and fittening methods, a horse’s genetics may not be the deciding factor for much longer.  
What do you think? Write to Louise Cordell, Horse Health Magazine, 47 Church Street, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 2AS or e-mail: lcordell@whpl.net
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