When a horse suffered a fracture, they compared its blood markers with those of two foals (horses around one-year old) matched in age and sex. McIlwraith says they found they could have predicted 75 percent of the fractures up to two months in advance based on the pattern of markers.
He says his group is working with a veterinary company in hopes of commercializing a screening test within two years. "If we could diagnose that microdamage, we could potentially prevent catastrophic injuries," he says. "Wayne's test would be a tremendous asset," Scollay agrees.
Bailey advocates a step-by-step gathering of the evidence to address possible risks to racehorses. "Frankly, the most productive approach for this problem will be to identify all the discrete questions" and "eliminate the causes of fragility that have a hereditary basis … one by one. It's the only approach that will work, anyway."