A few biotechnology companies already are soliciting high-end customers to clone beloved polo ponies, Olympic jumpers and other horses not barred from competition because of cloning.
“The thoroughbreds will certainly be the last ones,” said Eric Palmer, whose Paris company, Cryozootech, has had a hand in all three horse clonings, including the birth this year of Pieraz-Cryozootech, a clone of an endurance racer.
“Our business plan does not include them, although I feel that it is worth preserving cells of great champions for the future,” Palmer explained in an e-mail interview. “Can anyone say that it is bad to preserve genes that might disappear in the future?”
Palmer said his company has “banked” DNA in freezers from 30 horses.
Genetic Savings and Clone, a Sausalito-based company famed for cloning pet cats, tantalized Funny Cide’s owners briefly with an offer to clone the gelding for $100,000, according to Jack Knowlton, another co-owner of the horse. The company declined comment, but Knowlton said Funny Cide’s owners turned down the offer, citing the racing industry’s intransigence on cloning.
“Can you imagine the breeding industry, the blue bloods down there in Kentucky allowing that to happen?” Knowlton said. “No way.”
Indeed, prestigious Kentucky breeders say there is no room for cloning — or any other genetic engineering technology — in their business.
“Part of the intrigue, part of what makes horse racing so appealing is the challenge and the art of breeding a better animal,” said Dan Rosenberg, president of Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky. , which breeds Smarty Jones and a stable of other blue chip runners.
“It will become less appealing if it comes down to which owners and breeders can hire the best scientists,” Rosenberg said. “Do we really want races that pit 10 Secretariats against each other?”
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