By Mike Kane
A federal appeals court opinion this week that upholds the American Quarter Horse Association's ban on registering cloned horses strengthens Thoroughbred racing's already strict breeding guidelines, James Gagliano, the president and chief operating officer of The Jockey Club, said.
While Quarter Horses and Standardbreds may be bred using artificial insemination, The Jockey Club rules only permit foals to be registered that are the result of the natural coupling of a stallion mounting a broodmare.
“We're very pleased with the result and we want to congratulate our friends at the American Quarter Horse Association for their excellent defense,” Gagliano said Friday. “It was the right decision and it was a just decision.”
The Jockey Club has not had any requests to allow for the cloning of Thoroughbreds, Gagliano said, but that TJC officials pay close attention to matters affecting other breed registries. The Jockey Club maintains the stud book for Thoroughbreds foaled in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.
“For us, nothing in this ruling indicates that our rules need to be examined for changed,” Gagliano said. “A foal resulting from cloning is not and will not be eligible for registration with The Jockey Club. This ruling is very supportive.”
In a 2012 lawsuit, Texas Quarter Horse breeders Jason Abraham and Gregg Veneklasen said the AQHA violated federal and state antitrust statutes because it prohibits cloned horses from being listed in its stud book. A Lubbock, Texas jury found in their favor in July 2013, but did not award the $6 million in damages they sought.
On Tuesday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the jury's decision, saying that the plaintiffs had failed to prove that a conspiracy to restrain trade existed, which is an essential element of anti-trust challenges.
Cloning has been an issue in the Quarter Horse industry for more than a decade. The AQHA membership in 2004 passed a rule that prohibits the registration of clones. In 2008 it began facing requests from Abraham and Veneklasen to change that stance. When the AQHA decided not to amend its policy, Abraham and Veneklasen took the case to court.
Among the arguments against permitting the registration of clones is that cloning further limits the gene pool, lessens the need for stallions and does not further the breed by producing copies of the same horses.
“We always knew our case was sound,” said AQHA Executive Vice President Don Treadway said in a statement released by the organization after the appeals court relaeased its ruling. “Obviously, this decision lifts a huge burden from the shoulders of our association, and we are relieved to finally have a judgment in our favor.”
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