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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 08:22 GMT 09:22 UK
BHB concerned about cloning
Prometea, the world's first cloned horse with her mother
Prometea's birth is a world first
The British Horseracing Board has reacted cautiously to the news that scientists in Italy have created the world's first cloned horse.

DNA tests have confirmed that Prometea, who was born in Italy on 28 May, is genetically identical to her surrogate mother.

But the BHB described as "quite fanciful" the notion that it might be possible to clone a racehorse with the ability of a Dancing Brave or a Red Rum.

A spokesman said: "We view this development with concern but certainly not alarm. We have to take these scientific elements seriously.

"But the fact that only the produce of natural coverings can be eligible to race is enshrined in racing law.

"There are over 50 countries signed up to an international agreement on this."

Prometea's birth comes just two months after researchers revealed they had cloned the first mule, leaving other groups racing towards the accolade of creating the first cloned horse.

Dolly the sheep
Dolly was the world's first cloned sheep

The race was won by a team at the Laboratory of Reproductive Technology in Cremona, led by Cesare Galli, and is reported in the journal Nature.

To create Prometea, the team fused a skin cell taken from the Haflinger breed mother with an empty equine egg.

The team said Prometea's birth added the horse to the list of mammals which have already been successfully cloned.

Dolly the sheep, created by scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, was the first mammal ever to be cloned from a single adult cell.

The Italian team concluded: "Cloning could enable gelding champions to contribute their genotype to future generations, as well as opening up an opportunity to verify the reproducibility of traits such as character and sporting performance."

But Philip Freedman, chairman of the Thoroughbred Breeders' Association, said the development was of "no value" to the racing community because horses created by artificial insemination could not enter world racing stud books.

He said it was "theoretically possible" that the fertility technology could be used privately, or for show-jumping animals.

Racing is a sport - not an industry
Jockey Club spokesman John Maxse

Jockey Club spokesman John Maxse said he saw no prospect of racing changing its current position to allow cloned horses to run

"A fundamental part of any sport is the element of the unknown regarding a result, the combination of skill and luck which contributes to the unpredictability of the outcome of an event," he said.

Maxse said there was solidarity across countries banning artificially-created horses and this would mean horses produced in such a way would be barred from running in other nations.

He said it could also have a detrimental effect on the thoroughbred breeding industry.

"Sport should not be allowed to become a playground or amusement park for scientists," he added.

However, Professor Twink Allen, of the Equine Fertility Unit in Newmarket, said the birth was a "wonderful breakthrough".

He said in the future, when the technique had been made more efficient, it could be of significant value to sports such as showjumping, dressage and eventing, although not racing.

Because it is not possible to breed from geldings - castrated horses - this technology could be used to reproduce their strengths.

He denied creating clones of great horses could be seen as cheating.

"We cannot lose sight of the fact that we are in it to win - it is a sport so you go about making the best possible winner you can," he added.

Researchers give clone health warning
07 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature
First cloned horse unveiled in Italy
06 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature

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