The identification of horses at increased risk for catastrophic injury continues to be a high priority, but challenging goal for the racing industry.

Since many, if not most, catastrophic racing injuries are associated with a less obvious pre-existing injury or lameness, this multicenter prospective cohort study conducted at racetracks across the United States examined the inflammatory mRNA expression patterns of 21 genes for an association with catastrophic racing injuries. Five racing jurisdictions across the U.S. contributed blood samples for analysis from 107 fatally injured horses, as well as 579 uninjured controls.

Of the 21 genes analyzed, the expression of 12 genes changed between pre-race and post-race blood samples of normal horses so these were excluded from the analyses related to injury. Of the remaining nine genes examined, three (IGF-1, IL1RN, MMP2) were significantly different between catastrophically injured horses and uninjured controls.

While the sensitivity and specificity of these tests did not reach 90%, the authors concluded that in the future testing for mRNA expression of certain genes may be a useful tool for identifying horses predisposed to catastrophic injury.

—   Page AE et al. EVJ 2021; in press

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Gain more insight from equine hoof studies by reading Research Journal in the October 2021 issue of American Farriers Journal.