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HRN Original Blog:
From Coast to Coast

Resurrecting past champions through cloning?

Secretariat 615 X 400
 
“Sham on the outside. Sham getting a head in front…They’re on the backstretch. It’s almost a match race now. Secretariat’s on the inside by a head. Sham is on the outside…They’ve opened 10 lengths…Secretariat now taking the lead. He’s got it by about a length and a half…The lead is increasing. It’s 3. 3 ½… He is moving like a tremendous machine!... Secretariat by 12. Secretariat by 14 lengths on the turn…Here comes Secretariat to the wire! Unbelievable! An amazing performance!”
 
 
Can you imagine hearing those words in person? Or hearing those words or something similar again? It sounds farfetched, but if two Texas horsemen have their way, then the possibility is even more probable than what you might think. Jason Abraham and Gregg Veneklasen brought a lawsuit against the American Quarter Horse Association when that organization refused to register cloned horses and their offspring. The AQHA’s refusal to do so, the men claim, violates antitrust law. Should the judge rule in favor of the two Texas horsemen, the decision could pave the way for clones to compete in sanctioned quarter horse races at numerous tracks across the country.
 
 
In many cases, the clone would be an exact duplicate of a past champion. Multiple graded stakes winner and two-time world champion Tailor Fit, considered by many to be Quarter Horse royalty, already has a copy. The young duplicate has aptly been named Pure Tailor Fit. Proponents for cloning argue that the procedure would allow for the reintroduction of the genes of past champions who are deceased or were unable to breed and would enable breeders to reduce disease by eradicating detrimental genes. Conversely, opponents argue that cloning would concentrate the gene pool and undermine efforts to improve the breed.
 
 
Moral issues aside (my granny always said that it wasn’t polite to talk about religion or politics), allowing clones to enter the starting gate of sanctioned races, regardless of breed, is a step in the wrong direction. Breeding is a tricky business, and it’s impossible to get the same horse twice (just ask Roy and Gretchen Jackson of Lael Stable). I don’t think for one minute that cloning would change that fact. Take identical human twins for example. It has long been thought that identical twins have identical genetic profiles, but new research shows that while identical twins have very similar genes, they are not identical. Often differences are caused by environmental factors, but it has now been shown that changes can also occur due to epigenetic factors, or the chemical markers that attach to and affect how genes are expressed.
 
 
In order to clone horses, genetic information is transplanted from a cell in a donor animal to an unfertilized egg whose genetic information has either been destroyed or removed. The egg is then implanted into a surrogate mare, where it develops into a viable foal. It is not, however, a fool-proof method. Cloned animals have shown growth defects, and the reason for these defects is not yet known. Researchers believe it to be a result of in-vitro culture conditions or changes in chromatin in the nucleus, but they have admitted that further research would be needed in order to fully understand the reasons why cloning went wrong in cases such as that.
 
 
Even with cloning, you still cannot know for certain exactly what you’re going to get. You can use the DNA of past champions and artificially select for a “healthier” specimen, but in the end, you cannot make a horse anything other than what it will be. You cannot reproduce temperament, heart, or any other intangible through science. It just simply is not possible. Initially, cloning may strengthen the breed by re-introducing the genes of champions that could not reproduce, but ultimately cloning would undermine the breed when breeders continually in-breed to the same horses, as they do today.
 
 
Regardless of the judge’s decision in the Texas case, clones will not be seen in the thoroughbred racing industry anytime soon. Current Jockey Club rules mandate that foals have to be the result of a live cover and bar embryo transfer or artificial insemination. The rules governing the AQHA are different, however; they approved AI in the 1960s and embryo transfers in the 1980s.
 
 
I sincerely hope that the Jockey Club’s current rules are not amended and that the Texas judge rules in favor of the AQHA. There can only be one Secretariat, and that simple fact is one of the very reasons why he is so incredibly special. Cloning is not breeding. Even if it cannot exactly reproduce champions of years past, it does take out a lot of the guesswork. In doing so, it also takes out the variety, the mystery, and the excitement. When I review the past performances of a maiden race for 2-year olds, part of the excitement is in not knowing which will possibly become a champion and which will just be average. I don’t want a past performance filled with the clones of the greats because there is no mystery there. It might be exciting to see “Secretariat” race in person, but deep down, I know it would never be the same because even if that horse is an exact replica of Secretariat on the genetic level, he will never actually be Secretariat.  

 

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Older Comments about Resurrecting past champions through cloning?...

Last update, lab director, owner of Uccellini since 1990. Owns horses, some with what would be considered top pedigrees, but I cannot trace their racing records.
same in photography. Take a picture of a picture of a picture and the result is diluted..Hybrid vigor is universal
Or could be his workplace in Italy.
Sorry, no, Uccellini is where he works or worked. Must be in Spain.
EP, he also mentions(could be quoting from) a Royal Society Of Horse Breeding and Improvement, but not which country's program this is.
EP, he also mentions(could be quoting from) a Royal Society Of Horse Breeding and Improvement, but not which country's program this is.
EP, I'm really condensing this, but I think he was saying, in his post's (Mr.Toni's posts) from 34 days ago that the problem with cloning, which he mentions being left to the geneticists and experts in that area(very paraphrased by me) is that it does not improve the breed.He names specifically Easy Goer and Sadler's Wells-not improving from them. If I have this wrong, my apologies, but he might be saying that better farming(this could be about raising the horses or their care?) and muscular spectometry,and developing the muscles and bones need to be improved. No idea about the reference to bulldogs. Antonio Uccelli(although he did spell it uccellini), who Mr.Toni references, and he may be quoting him, is a scientist who has studied "Phenotypic and functional analysis of T cells homing into the cerebrospinal fluid of subjects with inflammatory diseases of the central nervous system" But, EP, this is just my best guess.
hopefully.
And I commend them for fighting the ruling. Hopefully another judge will have some sense and reverse the ruling.
OK, EP. When I get home, later.
The AQHA is going to continue to fight this new ruling, so it's not over yet. However, one of the arguments used toward the ruling was that the AQHA has allowed horses conceived through other than live covers to be registered (artificial insemination) for years. That practice is not allowed in thoroughbred breeding, therefore it cannot be used as an argument for cloning/registration of thoroughbreds. As long as the live cover rule is in place, thoroughbred breeding should remain above this fray.
Mary Z- I need more translation from Toni's posts....
It's a sad thing and could end up tainting the sport.
I agree, jmac. I sincerely hope that the Jockey Club isn't pressured to follow suit.
Well the America court system screwed up again.
UPDATE: A federal judge ruled that the AQHA must begin allowing cloned horses to be added to its registry.
I think Dressage makes a point. I did some research on this in April. I believe only 5% of clone attempts make it past the embryo stage, so quite frankly we as humans are far from mastering the complex project of cloning. I won't go into religoun or if it is humane, but I'd much rather NOT allow cloning. There is only one Secretariat. I agree completely with TV's post. THese guys are taking a shortcut in breeding, which is unfair.
There are so many genetic defects and problems when you clone an animal. We do not have the technology or knowledge to safely clone at this point- perhaps in the future, but not now. Once (if ever) cloning is perfectly, then the clones would have little impact on the racetrack as the nurturing of each horse differs. Though they could make an impact in the breeding shed
be like cloning and family member and that would be so creepy.
Proponents have tried to argue that the personality "flows through" to the clone, but I don't believe that, personally. When it comes to nature vs. nurture, there is no clear cut division as both factors greatly, and I would argue equally, contribute to how a person, horse, etc. turns out. There is nothing positive about cloning in this particular situation. There are too many unwanted and uncared for animals in this world, and scientists want to start cloning specific animals simply because they were exceptional specimens? It's selfish and nonsensical.
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Meet Ashley Tamulonis
  
 

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, and it was her love of reading and horses that led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few short years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and get to personally meet and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

 

Before joining Horse Racing Nation, Ashley created her own blog Wired with Ashley Paige. The idea to venture into the world of blogging came to her when she realized that she had much to say about horse racing and no one to say it to at the time. Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation blogging as The Florida Filly. Using that moniker, she mainly covered racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues, and from time to time offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry as a whole. A move north to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the new From Coast to Coast blog for HRN, which is simply a revamped version of The Florida Filly. Don't let the new look and name change fool you, though. Ashley still brings to the table the same great coverage as From Coast to Coast as she did for The Florida Filly. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

 

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband Chris and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.