If only we could accurately predict a horse's future athletic performance, we'd know which horses on which to spend our fortunes. Many early factors in estimating a yearling's potential have been proven correct, others false, and there's many for which we just don't have all the facts. To help us gain more information on this subject, Scott Pierce, DVM, of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky., will present his findings on Nov. 26 on the predictive value of yearling endoscopic evaluations in "Correlation of Racing Performance to Yearling Endoscopic Evaluation."

In his recent study, Pierce evaluated the endoscopic exam results of 817 yearlings that went through the 1998 Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton Thoroughbred yearling sales. He then followed their racing careers, comparing the number of starts at ages two and three, earnings, and average earnings per start for each one.

"The endoscopic exam is a very critical part of the yearling exam," said Pierce. "My goal was to define these airway abnormalities and see how they really affected these horses in the future. I wanted to find out if these were abnormalities we should be very critical of, or if we could be more tolerant of them. Obviously the endoscopic exams are very commonly done, and it's a very controversial exam that we have to do over a minute or two to predict a horse's future performance."

Previously, the available information has allowed us to theorize about how racing performance might be affected, but hasn't offered any hard evidence.

Pierce evaluated throat symmetry and texture of the epiglottis (the flap of tissue that covers the windpipe when the horse swallows). He found that the asymmetries and odd textures many veterinarians have shunned actually don't diminish racing performance as much as one might expect.

"The results are very interesting," Pierce adds. His presentation will give more details on the study's findings.

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