When Paul Megson attended the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale with his young daughter, Valerie, he had his eye on a particular weanling that stood out from the hundreds of other catalog entries because of one obvious reason: his pure, white coat.
To the delight of Valerie, who was jumping up in down with tears in her eyes, Megson was able to acquire the colt for $80,000 from Painted Desert Farm through Rosemont Farm, agent. Appropriately named Arctic Bright, the colt was the top-priced weanling of that session, and immediately captured the attention of local media and fans alike.
Nearly 2 1/2 years later, after much preparation and conditioning, Arctic Bright, a son of Painting Freedom, whose sire is Airdrie Apache, made his first start in Turfway’s last race March 19, finishing last of seven at odds of 9-1 in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight.
Bred in Oregon by Darlene Knight, Arctic Bright is the first foal out of the Reign Road mare Mesa Queen. He hails from the family of 1975 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Foolish Pleasure.
“He was a grand individual when I bought him,” said Megson, who will race Arctic Bright with his wife, Berva. “I wouldn’t have bought him just because he was white if he had some major flaws to him, but he was a really nice individual. The fact he was a registered Thoroughbred and a registered Paint means he can be bred to Thoroughbreds, Paint horses, or Quarter Horses and still get a registered foal,” he added, indicating he may consider standing the horse following his career. “There are a lot of people in the show business and Thoroughbred business that want to put a little color in their program.”
Megson, a former successful trainer on the Ohio circuit, owns a distribution business, as well as a breeding farm near Calvert City, Ky. He said he did some research with The Jockey Club before purchasing Arctic Bright and discovered there were only around 100 white Thoroughbreds that had ever been registered with that organization, and several of those had other black or brown markings. “We only found four in the world that were pure white stallions,” he said.
One of the most well-known white Thoroughbreds from years past is a mare named Patchen Beauty, who won or placed in six of 23 starts and earned more than $50,000. Now a broodmare, the mare has produced five white offspring, three of which are also winners, including Patchen Prince, who won twice at Turfway last year and retired at the end of the seaon due to an injury with earnings of $47,796.
While Arctic Bright’s disposition and conformation were impressive from the beginning, his conditioners had their work cut out for them when it came time for his breaking and early training.
“He was having some issues coming out of the gate, so we dropped back and started over,” said Megson. “What we found out was because of his underlying pink skin, his mouth was very tender. If the exercise rider does a little tugging on him, he ends up sore around his mouth, and he was trying to get away from that, so that’s what was causing the gate problems.”
Arctic Bright was originally sent to trainer Ivan Vasquez last summer at Beulah Park before being turned over in December to Matt Kintz, who is based at Mountaineer Park. Kintz’ brother Craig Huston is currently handling the horse’s conditioning at Turfway. The colt has had five recorded workouts at the Florence, Ky. track prior to his March 19 debut.
“He has not worked lights out, but he has improved, and he’s come along with his gate work,” said Kintz. “That’s been his biggest issue since I had him. He had quite a bit of conditioning and gate work before I got him, but he just did not have his gate card. I do think he handles the Polytrack at Turfway pretty well, and conditioning-wise, he’s ready for a start.”
Megson said he was amazed at how much attention Arctic Bright had garnered in spite of the fact he had yet to race.
“He’s an eye-catcher, and there’s been a lot of interest, especially from young people,” he explained. “This is what I think we’ve got to have in this business…we’ve got to have a new interest and reason for getting young people involved, and if he brings one new person to the racetrack, then he was well worth the purchase price.
“I think this colt is ready to run. He’s going forward, improving, and I just want him to go out there and give a good showing of himself--that’s all a person can ask for. As long as he tries, that’s all I care about.”
Arctic will face eight other rivals in the $21,000 maiden special weight contest (race 12) at Turfway March 19. The colt will break from post 4 in the race, which will be televised on TVG and is slated for 10:25 p.m. ET.