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Scientists Study Historic Stallion DNA

Friday, 9th September 2005

English scientists from the Royal Veterinary College & Cambridge University "will study the genetic material of Eclipse, the undefeated English champion from the 18th century who is the tail-male ancestor of 95% of modern thoroughbreds, in hopes of gaining insight into the origins of the breed," reported thoroughbredtimes.com. Eclipse's whole skeleton was preserved after his death in 1789. Equine genetics expert Professor Matthew Binns commented: "Our preferred material is a tooth, because the DNA is better protected, but we'll also be tackling long bones & hooves." Binns noted Eclipse (a great-great grandson of the Darley Arabian) "was the greatest in history & to get a look at his genetic material will be pretty amazing." The Darley Arabian & another pair of Arabian stallions (the Byerly Turk & Godolphin Arabian) "are the initial 3 founding sires of the thoroughbred breed". The scientists will also study the DNA of 2 other stallions who also descend from the Darley Arabian: Hermit (winner of 1867 Epsom Derby) & St Simon (who won all 9 of his starts in the 1880s & was England's leading sire 9 times). A study of the remains of the Godolphin Arabian (who was originally from Yemen & is buried in a country park in the Gog Magog hill southeast of Cambridge) "is also being sought. Researchers want to exhume the stallion for samples & are in discussions with the park's owner".

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