Microchips and Equine Identification
Rick L. Bailey
Rick L. Bailey Registrar, The Jockey Club

Rick L. Bailey:
Good morning. For the benefit of our audience, the primary responsibility of a Thoroughbred stud book is to accurately record pedigree information as well as the markings or appearance of the horse. We are based in Lexington, Ky., and register Thoroughbreds foaled in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico, as well as record such information for those horses importing from countries around the world.

A great many racing, handicapping and breeding decisions are based upon the pedigree information, so it's vital such data be recorded as precisely as modern technology allows.

As you may know, the pedigree of each and every foal we register is verified by using a hair sample that is DNA tested and must qualify with reported sire and dam in order for the Certificate of Foal Registration to be issued.

With 13 micro-satellite markers to be part of the standard test, DNA typing has an efficacy rate greater than 99.99% for the protection of incorrectly imported percentage. So that's pretty high.

In addition to authenticating pedigrees, the recording of markings on the Thoroughbred plays an essential role in the industry as accurately documenting the appearance of the horse is instrumental to integrity and efficiency at every public auction, at the racetrack, and in the show ring.

At the time of registration, breeders submit a set of photographs for each foal that are supportive of accurately recording the color and markings. All photos are captured in a digital format and stored on our network at the home office in Lexington, and they are essential to any downstream registration-related process, such as a request for a passport and export certificate.

The breeder also supplies written information with respect to the foal's white markings and cowlicks. Our team in the registry quality control these materials, standardize the written markings, and we print this key information on the certificate of foal registration, which travels with the horse as a lifelong identity document.

Over the course of the past decade many stud books around the world begin supplementing the markings by insertion of a microchip in the horse and listing that number on the official documents, including in passports for those that travel internationally. It's fair to say microchips have become standards in the national Thoroughbred industry. Countries such as England, Ireland, France, South Africa, Australia and others have all instituted microchips as a requirement for registration, and their representatives have reported at the International Stud Book Committee a successful transition to the use of microchips with minimal issues or problems. Identifiers at the various Breeders' Cup sites have found the microchip to be reliable in confirming identity from the runners importing from Europe.

In response to these positive results, we started due diligence work on this decision and that included conversations with customers, plus a survey to gauge their willingness to utilize microchips. We found solid support in favor of The Jockey Club, including a microchip at the time of registration.

Now, the advancement to DNA typing 14 years ago is a good example of where technology improved reliability and efficiency. Microchipping foals should do the same for Thoroughbred identification. Yesterday The Jockey Club's board of stewards voted to change certain provisions of the Principle Rules and Requirements of the American Stud Book. The changes related to microchips are displayed on the screen, and as you can see, they become a requirement for registration of foals for 2017 and later. This approach allows for microchips to be phased in or voluntary for the foals of 2016, and it will allow breeders and owners to establish appropriate procedures with their vet and identifier and to acquire a microchip reader.

In closing, a few additional thoughts as to why the timing is right for this change:

  • Microchips are a secure and proven technology with effective and popular use in pets for about 20 years.
  • Heath issues related to the insertion of a microchip have proven to be extremely minimal.
  • Like with most technology-based items, the cost has lowered over time. The Jockey Club will pay for the cost of the microchip. There will be no change to the fees for registration.
  • Software applications to display data about the horse based upon the reading of a microchip will improve the delivery of instance information. Such data might include pedigree, racing performance, or even health records.
  • When coupled with the review for written markings, the use of microchips will improve the efficiency and reliability of the identification process for all Thoroughbreds, even for those who do not make it to the racetrack.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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