A clone of legendary showjumper Arko III has been born in the US, seven months after the stallion’s death.
The foal, who arrived in August, is the result of a combined effort by UK-based genetic preservation company, Gemini Genetics, and partner ViaGen Pets and Equine in the US.
“It was an extremely sad day for our family when we lost Arko, he was truly a horse of a lifetime,” said a joint statement from Pat, John and Lisa Hales, of Shaw Farm Stud, owners of Arko and his clone.
“The birth of his clone was very emotional. We believe it is not only exciting for our sport worldwide, but especially for the future of British breeding for years to come. We look forward to breeding many more champions from this wonderful bloodline.”
The clone was generated from a small skin sample from Arko, genetically preserved by Gemini Genetics, the sister company to Stallion AI Services. The sample was then shipped to ViaGen Pets & Equine in the US.
Gemini Genetics manager Lucy Morgan, who undertook the preservation, told H&H the clone will remain at ViaGen’s facility in the US until he is weaned, at the earliest.
She added plans for what his future may hold in terms of competition have not been decided yet, but stressed the main intention is for him to be a breeding sire.
“We are thrilled at the successful birth of Arko’s clone,” she added. “A much-loved stallion in terms of his outstanding performances and his unique and full of life character, it is brilliant to have enabled his cloning so that his outstanding legacy can continue. Gemini Genetics are thrilled and highly privileged to have facilitated this amazing revival of Arko III via his genetic twin.”
Ms Morgan clarified there is no issue surrounding the quality or availability of Arko’s semen, rather the decision to clone was about taking the opportunity to preserve his genetics for the future.
“There is plenty of semen left in reserve, but you would never be able to breed another Arko with the exact same genetics [other than by cloning], as 50% of the DNA would be different,” she said.
The original Arko (Argentinius x Beach Boy) won grands prix across the globe with rider, Nick Skelton. The pair finished 10th individually at the 2004 Athens Olympics and represented Britain at the 2005 European Championships. Arko was also the horse Nick credited with getting him back in the saddle after he broke his neck in a riding accident in 2000.
Their numerous victories included the sport’s richest prize, the CN International at Spruce Meadows. Arko won the leading British showjumper of the year title on five occasions, before stepping down from competition in 2008. He retired from stud in 2019 and died in January 2021.
His off-spring include John Whitaker’s current stable star, Argento, as well as the Hales family’s SFS Aristo.
Blake Russell, president of ViaGen Pets & Equine, said the company has delivered more than 1,000 “healthy, cloned foals” to clients and “each project is truly special”.
“The ability to play a part in reproducing a phenomenal genotype like Arko III is what makes our effort worthwhile,” he said.
“We are very excited to see him grow and develop and make his footprint on the industry. It is a real pleasure to collaborate with great partners like Gemini Genetics and their sister company, Stallion AI Services, to help bring our services to clients around the globe.
“The relationships that we have developed with partners like Gemini Genetics are what make this venture work for everyone. I hope all can see that cloning technology is a powerful advanced reproductive technology that can bring great opportunity.”
Tullis Matson, founder and director of Stallion AI Services, added it has “been a privilege” working with Arko and the Hales family for almost 10 years of the stallion’s life.
“We are thrilled at the news of the successful birth of his clone and are privileged to have been involved in this project via our sister company, Gemini Genetics,” he said.
“We look forward to the coming years of his clone, [and the benefits he will bring] to the performance industry and the breeding sector.”
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