Buyers similarly became enamored of endoscopic examinations of a horse's upper respiratory tract to look for abnormalities of the pharynx and larynx that can hamper airflow. Anything less than a top scope rating scares buyers away, Cauthen says. Then Scott Pierce, a veterinarian at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, studied the correlation between endoscopy scores and subsequent racing performance in more than 800 horses. In a paper published in the 2001 American Association of Equine Practitioners's Proceedings, Pierce showed that only the lowest endoscopy scores hurt performance, and horses with mid-range scores were no more likely to perform poorly than horses with top scores.
For Cauthen, evaluating any testing, including genetics, comes down to data. He'd like to see some. "Show me your results. Show me you were able to prospectively select winners based on your data," he says.
Most of the companies make no bones about keeping the performance data Cauthen looks for to themselves. The Genetic Edge, owned by Equine Analysis Systems (EAS), adds genetic testing to a series of other performance measures including motion analysis, metabolic profile testing, breathing tests and heart testing. Taken together, veterinarian David Lambert, EAS's managing owner, says these tests led his clients to breed or buy 27 Kentucky Derby runners, including two Derby winners, two Horse of the Year winners, two Dubai World Cup winners, plus more than 60 graded stakes winners.
But it's impossible to test the claims of champion horses selected by EquineAnalysis System Inc.. His clients are unidentified. And no one talks about the horses that didn't win.
Doug Cauthen, a thoroughbred manager who helps people make decisions about their horses, has used genetic testing since his days as farm president and CEO at WinStar. Cauthen is brother of consignor Kerry Cauthen and of Steve Cauthen, who in 1978 rode Affirmed to win the Triple Crown.
For Doug Cauthen, employing genetic testing is simply a matter of keeping on top of emerging technology. "I think there's something to it," Cauthen says. "It's a tool that will get a lot better over time. You should be open to it. It can't by any stretch of the imagination be the primary decision, because these are animals, and the primary decision has to be how they look and act. But it could help, and it's evolving."