The first equus caballus ever cloned was in 2003 and prominent sport-horse competitors have zealously exploited the technology.


The breeding of Thoroughbred racehorses is mandated to be by natural cover if the foal is eligible to be registered…and that has always been the case.  Whereas Standardbred and Quarter Horse registries allow for artificial insemination, Thoroughbred registries around the world do not.

Some participants in the sport of polo have gone much further, as highlighted in a March 11, 2018, segment on CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes.  Correspondent Lesley Stahl traveled to Argentina and Texas for the story.

The world’s best polo player for the past 22 years, Adolpho Cambiaso, teamed up with Texan Alan Meeker to clone outstanding polo ponies, such as Cambiaso’s ill-fated stallion Aiken Cura, who was humanely destroyed after breaking his leg in a 2006 polo match.  Before Aiken Cura was euthanized, Cambiaso had a veterinarian extract some of the stallion’s cells for cloning.

Cambiaso’s 17-year-old retired mare Cuartetera is widely hailed as the best polo pony of all time,  So far, Cambiaso and Meeker have fourteen clones of her with ten more planned for 2018 and the same number in 2019.  The clones are sequentially named Cuartetera 01, Cuartetera 02, and so on.  All have been born to surrogate mares.

The clones are very similar to the original Cuartetera in appearance, athletic ability, and disposition.  They have no special health problems and the infant mortality rate for cloned horses is only slightly higher than for foals born via natural breeding.

In the final match at the 2017 Argentine Open, members of the winning Cambiaso team all rode clones while their opponents were mounted on naturally bred ponies.  Cambiaso scored the winning goal in the sudden-death climax aboard Cuartetera 06.  Stahl raised the issue of whether Cambiaso had an unfair advantage in that every pony available to his team was a clone of the great Cuartetera?

Cambiaso’s business partner Meeker was asked about religious and moral objections to cloning.  He replied that he disagreed with human cloning but added:  “I’ve been asked by some of the wealthiest people on planet earth to clone a human being…and the answer is always a resounding ‘no.'”  Meeker predicted that someone will eventually take this controversial and troubling step…though he would not be the one to do so.

It is highly likely that Thoroughbred registries will continue to adhere to the natural method of contraception if for no other reason than to protect stallion fees.  Meanwhile, other sport-horse registries will persist with artificial insemination, embryo transplants, and, in many cases, cloning.

Despite concerns about the ethics and possible unintended consequences of animal cloning, I do wonder how, say, Secretariat 02 and 03 would do racing against one another and Man o’ War 07 in a future Kentucky Derby or Belmont.  And if we want to get into the Twilight Zone and an ethical/moral quagmire, how about if they were ridden by Ron Turcotte 02, Ron Turcotte 03, and Clarence Kummer 02.

While this scenario is farfetched and perhaps scary, it is nonetheless within the capabilities of extant science and technology rather than in the more comforting domain of science fiction.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


Continued from Part 2 on February 25, 2018

One of the most interesting findings from the research of psychologists Daniel Kahneman (Nobel Laureate in Economic Sciences) and the late Amos Tversky is that people generally want to avoid losses more than they desire to attain gains.  Michael Lewis provides examples in his book The Undoing Project.

Question 1:  Would you rather have $500 for sure or a 50-50 shot at $1,000?

Answer:  Overwhelmingly, people took the sure thing.

Question 2:  Which of the following do you prefer?

Gift A:  A lottery ticket that offers a 50 percent chance of losing $1,000

Gift B:  A certain loss of $500

Most people took the gamble and became “risk seekers.”

Lewis writes: “It was instantly obvious to them (Kahneman and Tversky) that if you stuck minus signs in front of these hypothetical gambles and asked people to reconsider them, they behaved differently than they had when faced with nothing but possible gains…  The odds that people demanded to accept a certain loss over the chance of some greater loss crudely mirrored the odds they demanded to forgo a certain gain for the chance of a greater gain.  For example, to get people to prefer a 50-50 chance of $1,000 over some certain gain, you had to lower the certain gain to around $370.  To get them to prefer a certain loss to a 50-50 chance of losing $1,000, you had to lower the loss to around $370.”

Thinking about these results, which were characteristic of a cross-section of people, I wonder if avid horse-race bettors mirror the results or behave differently.  Are such bettors wired to take more risks?  For instance, in Question 1, would they more than the general population opt for the 50-50 shot at $1,000 or at least require a certain monetary gain of more than $500?  In the second question, the vast majority of dedicated horseplayers would undoubtedly follow the normal response and risk-seek.

Assume a handicapper is at the racetrack with winnings of $500 going into the last race.  He or she can skip the race and leave a winner…or can bet some or all of the $500 with the potential to go home with much more.  The findings of Kahneman and Tversky would predict that most people would go home a winner of $500 or risk only a small part of the $500.

By contrast, if a bettor had lost $500 prior to the last race, he or she would be apt to risk-seek and take a shot at getting some or all of the money back.  This proclivity to risk-seek in the face of loss is precisely why people with a gambling addiction keep digging deeper holes for themselves.  A Las Vegas card dealer said she has seen people lose vast sums of money yet try to borrow more in order to recoup.  She felt sorry for one such individual and whispered to him (so her boss could not hear) to please quit betting.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


The most famous jump race in the world is the Grand National at the picturesque Jockey-Club affiliated Aintree Racecourse in Liverpool, England.  The race has been held annually since 1839 and the 2018 renewal is scheduled for April 14, which concludes a three-day race meet with a card of seven races each day.  The Grand National has a purse of £1 million with £561,300 going to the winner.  In keeping with its aura of prestige, the event has a portfolio of sponsors like Bentley.

The Grand National is run at a distance of 4 miles and 514 yards and over 30 fences.  In every one of the 21 Grand National betting events, bettors have to search for horses that are in peak condition to stay the course and contend.  Trainers try to exploit their horses speed and build stamina through a combination of actual works and long and leisurely gallops over trails.

As with racehorses on the flat, chasers only have so many runs in them at peak levels before they begin to taper off.  And the Grand National races are so esteemed that trainers do everything they can to have their charges at the top of their games.

Bettors should initially satisfy themselves that leading up to a Grand National race, an entry has shown improvement in form in its two or three most recent races.  Clues to a horse’s fitness can also sometimes be picked up by watching the animal in the paddock or during the warmup.

Once the current form question has been answered with a yes, the next issue is about the horse’s class.  The fittest of horses is unlikely to be competitive if it is placed in a race with others who have consistently raced in much higher-level races (class and form are the subject of yesterday’s article “Class and Form at Cheltenham.”)  It is asking a lot for a horse that has been racing in nondescript races to abruptly move up and compete against proven Group I or Grade I winners.

In the Grand National especially, absolutely no win can be counted on until the horse in front has passed the finish line.  In the 1956 race, the famous mystery writer and then-jockey Dick Francis had cleared the final hurdle in front with Devon Loch, owned by the Queen Mother.  The horse proceeded to do a belly flop and defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business