White horse is a rare bird

AUBURN, Wash. - Since The Jockey Club registered the filly White Beauty, a foal of 1963, as its first white Thoroughbred, only 11 others - seven fillies and four colts - have passed the required physical inspection to be deemed white and to join her in the American Stud Book.

The last three white horses registered were all born in 1999 at Dalene Knight and Don Irvine's Painted Desert Farm in Redmond, Oregon. Another two foals who are expected to be registered as white with The Jockey Club were foaled at the farm this year. "Neither of them has a hair on her body that is anything other than white," said Knight, which is the requirement for being registered as white.

Painted Desert Farm's bumper crop of white Thoroughbreds is not an accident. Knight has bred Paint Horses and colorful Thoroughbreds for years, mainly for the show horse and the pleasure horse markets. She began to think of breeding white horses when she and Irvine bought a chestnut named Airdrie Apache, a now 7-year-old son of the Mr. Prospector sire Naevus and Not Quite White, from breeder Bereton Jones of Kentucky.

"Airdrie Apache has been the key to our success in breeding white horses," said Knight. "His mother was one of the original nine registered white Thoroughbreds, and he himself is a chestnut with white all over his body. In fact, he is double registered as a Thoroughbred and a Paint Horse.

"I have an interest in color genetics in Thoroughbreds, and I have been buying mares with the potential to produce color for a long time. When I bred these mares to Airdrie Apache, I began to get white foals. I wouldn't say I was expecting to get them, but I was definitely hoping to get them."

The three white foals of 1999 - Silver Mystique, Snow Baby Go, and Arctic White - are all members of Airdrie Apache's first crop at stud, and he also sired each of this year's white foals.

The filly Silver Mystique was sold as a weanling at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale in Kentucky for $85,000. Snow Baby Go, another filly, was a late foal and is still at Painted Desert Farm. Arctic White, a colt, was in training with leading trainer Howard Belvoir at Emerald Downs until last week, when he was sent home with bucked shins.

Although white Thoroughbreds are regarded more for their appearance than for their racing ability, five of the first nine registered white foals went on to win at least one race, although none has ever won a stakes. The most recent white Thoroughbred to race was Patchen Beauty, a mare who raced in Kentucky and Ohio from 1998 to 2000, winning two of 23 starts, while earning $54,268.

Belvoir said Arctic White, who is out of the Raise a Man mare Tropicana Anna, will be given 90 days off, then will resume training at Bay Meadows in the fall. He will have to be talented to compete in allowance company on the northern California circuit, because Knight wants to keep him as a stallion and will not risk him for a claiming price. Arctic White's stud career won't be unprecedented, as Clarence Stewart, a colt of 1977 who was registered as white, stood as a stallion after winning one of his 29 starts at the track. He sired a white son, White Flight, who was foaled in 1987 and went on to win one of his 23 starts.

"We got three works into him [Arctic White] before he shin-bucked, and he showed that he had some talent," said Belvoir. "The only drawback is that he's so hard to keep clean. With that white coat, we have to brush him several times a day."

Knight's production of white Thoroughbreds may increase when Arctic White goes to stud. While it is not necessary for either of the parents to be white to produce a white foal it increases the chances. Arctic White is currently the only living male white Thoroughbred in the world, which will make him the only white Thoroughbred at stud when he retires from racing.

"There is already a lot of interest in breeding to him," she said, "and I have gotten calls from people wanting to buy him from all over the world. We don't want to sell him, though. He's unique."