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Keywords:

  • association test;
  • horse;
  • myostatin;
  • racing distance;
  • SNP array;
  • Thoroughbred

Summary

One hundred and eighty-nine Thoroughbred horses that had won Graded Stakes races in North America were genotyped with the Illumina Equine SNP50 bead chip. Association tests using PLINK to determine whether any SNPs were associated with optimum racing distance (7 furlongs and under compared to 8–10 furlongs) identified a locus on ECA18 that was statistically significant (−log 10 EMP2 = 1.63) at the genome-wide level following permutation analysis (10 000 permutations). Bioinformatic analysis revealed that the two ECA18 SNPs with the highest statistical significance spanned the MSTN (myostatin) locus. Mutations in myostatin in several mammalian species have been associated with increased muscling, with a preferential increase in fast glycolytic type IIB fibres, which would increase power potential. Thoroughbred horses that race over sprint distances, which are 5–7 furlongs, are often characterized by impressive hind quarter musculature, strongly suggesting that the association observed between the ECA18 SNPs and optimum race distance is mediated through MSTN.