MEMO TO JOCKEY CLUB: A PHAROAH REDUX MAY BE IN YOUR FUTURE

The December 7, 2015 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse featured an insightful article on horse cloning (somatic cell nuclear transfer) titled “Transferring a Genetic Legacy.”  The focus was on cloning in equine sports like jumping, dressage, and eventing.  The author (Stacey Reap) pointed out that the American Jockey Club and the American Quarter Horse Association don’t permit registration of cloned horses, although the AQHA had to survive a legal challenge to enforce its ban.

Particularly intriguing is the potential to rebirth outstanding performance geldings as stallions, such as the Thoroughbreds Kelso, Forego, and John Henry, or sterile champion stallions like Assault and Cigar.

The Chronicle of the Horse article reported that “…Overbrook Farm confirmed that [a laboratory] had cloned their elite Thoroughbred sire Storm Cat this year” for the purpose of eventually siring performance horses.

Following is a brief story that is not science fiction, given the technology that has already cloned Storm Cat.

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It is sometime in the future and the American Triple Crown has been won by an undefeated colt that many hardboots consider to be one of the best ever.  His name is American Legacy and he’s from the last crop of the late American Pharoah, who was the Triple Crown and Breeders Cup Classic champion in 2015.

Immediately before the elderly American Pharoah’s demise, a billionaire racehorse owner, Joseph Moneymaker, paid Ashford Stud for the right to clone their animal.  The clone, Pharoah Redux, was the same age as American Legacy and the intent was to use him to sire sport horses.

However, when Pharoah Redux turned two, Mr. Moneymaker began to work the colt in the company of his stable of top-flight Thoroughbreds.  Pharoah Redux easily handled them and he unofficially broke a couple of track records and a world record in doing so.

The problem was that the clone Pharoah Redux was not eligible to run in an official race because he couldn’t be registered with the Jockey Club.

When word of the mysterious Pharoah Redux spread in racing circles and beyond, demand in the sporting world for a race between American Legacy and his genetic ancestor Pharoah Redux burgeoned.  In fact, many racing fans taunted the owners of American Legacy on social media for dodging a race against Pharoah Redux by hiding behind the Jockey Club prohibition on clones.

Finallly, NBC Sports offered the owners of both colts a $4 million match race, to be split 75% to the winner and 25% to the loser, to be held at 1 1/4 miles on worldwide television in prime time in early October.  Nothing like this had ever occurred:  a reigning Triple Crown champion versus an officially unraced DNA replica of the champion’s own sire.

The unsanctioned race took place as planned at Churchill Downs, with Pharoah Redux easily besting American Legacy by six lengths.  Racing historians compared the result to match races between Seabiscuit vs. War Admiral and Nashua vs. Swaps.

The shocking result had the same transformative effect as when the New York Jets, from the upstart American Football League, took down the supposedly superior Baltimore Colts of the National Football League in Super Bowl III.

The match race for the ages indeed had a profound effect on horse racing.  Afterwards, racetracks began to hold restricted races for naturally sired Thoroughbreds and open races for all comers no matter how they were created genetically.

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What if it turns out that the aforementioned clone of the deceased racehorse and elite sire Storm Cat is fast enough to possibly defeat, say, the 2018 Kentucky Derby winner?  History shows that the protectionist Jersey Act in Great Britain prohibited the registration of so-called “impure” American racehorses in the British Stud Book from 1913 to 1949.  The act was rescinded because such “ineligible” horses with American breeding were winning stakes races in Europe and demonstrating their equality if not superiority to British-breds.
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