A Horse of a Different Color
by Avalyn Hunter
Date Posted: 3/13/2009 3:16:27 PM
Last Updated: 4/9/2009 10:52:55 AM

Patchen Prince (by Pioneering), a fourth-generation descendant of White Beauty, has won 2 races in nine starts.
Photo: Pat Lang

The expression a horse of a different color is believed to have originated – at least in print – with Shakespeare, who used the phrase “a horse of the same colour” in his play Twelfth Night to indicate agreement between ideas. By the late eighteenth century, the expression was appearing in its modern form, meaning a situation or matter different from the one originally expected.

Had Shakespeare lived long enough to witness the explosion of colors in the modern Thoroughbred, he might have coined another phrase or two. While bay, chestnut, brown, black, and gray remain the breed’s standard colors, fanciers of unusually colored Thoroughbreds can now find paints, buckskins, cremellos, palominos, and whites to round out the equine palette. Not all of these colors are as yet recognized by The Jockey Club, but they are becoming more widely recognized among breeders and fans, particularly in sport horse circles.

The first of the “new” colors to earn The Jockey Club approval was white, which has often drawn reverence or even awe. Among the ancient Romans and their later European successors, the white horse symbolized victory and was therefore the preferred mount for triumphant kings and generals. Other cultures dedicated such horses to the gods, or considered them particularly suitable for sacrifice. Many considered the birth of a white foal to be a portent for good or evil.

When White Beauty arrived into the world in the spring of 1963, what she portended to breeder Herman Goodpaster was trouble. At the time, The Jockey Club did not accept “white” as a color for registration, and there was serious doubt as to whether a pure Thoroughbred could be white. Only two white Thoroughbreds had been previously registered in recognized stud books: a colt named White Cross, foaled in Tennessee in 1896, and a 1925 German-bred filly named "Woher?."  The latter was apparently used for breeding warmbloods, and the former does not appear to have stood at stud, at least not as a sire of Thoroughbreds."

Goodpaster actually had two white foals at Patchen Wilkes Farm that spring, but he was able to get War Colors registered as a “roan” (a color then permitted) thanks to colored hairs scattered in the colt’s coat. But it took months of wrangling before The Jockey Club conceded that White Beauty was indeed a Thoroughbred and indeed, officially, white. Modern color breeders now trace the probable source of her color to her sire, the chestnut sabino Ky. Colonel (also the sire of War Colors), whose flashy markings included a large white spot at his girth. In fairness to The Jockey Club, however, its registration personnel had much less information available about the transmission and expression of the sabino color pattern (which causes white spotting ranging from modest to gaudy to all white) in 1963.

After all the drama attending her registration, White Beauty’s racing career was anticlimactic: she started 16 times in modest company and won twice. But as a broodmare, she proved she was not just a genetic freak. Two of her foals, the Sir Ribot colt Busy Fellow and the Reverse filly World O’Beauty, were registered as roans despite being sired by non-gray stallions, suggesting that the sabino color pattern was alive and well. And White Beauty’s fifth foal, the unraced Spotted Line filly Beauty ‘n Motion, was, like her dam, white.

Other than for the unusual colors, White Beauty’s six foals had been fairly unremarkable, including one stakes-placed colt and three other winners. But now that White Beauty had established that her color could be transmitted, she and her progeny became interesting for reasons other than their racing ability. How far could the white color go, now that it had become established in the line?

As it turns out, it’s still running – literally. Patchen Prince (by Pioneering), a fourth-generation descendant of White Beauty, won a one-mile allowance March 7 at Turfway Park to nail down his second win in nine starts. To date, he is the most accomplished of four white foals produced by Patchen Beauty; the others are The White Fox (a full brother to Patchen Prince) and Spot of Beauty (by Skip Away), both winners, and a 2008 colt named White Prince.

Herself a winner twice in 23 starts, Patchen Beauty (by Hatchet Man) was the only white foal produced from unraced Precious Beauty, a white daughter of World O’Beauty and the Jaipur horse Jatullah. Another daughter of World O’Beauty, Late ‘n White (by Triomphe), was also registered as a white but never produced any foals.

The family of White Beauty is not the only source of white in the modern Thoroughbred, although it has probably been the most successful from a racing standpoint. In North America, another source of white Thoroughbreds has been Airdrie Apache, who stands at Painted Desert Farm in Oregon. Although registered as a chestnut, Airdrie Apache is liberally splashed with white and is cross-registered as a Paint. Sired by the chestnut sabino Naevus out of Not Quite White (who, like White Beauty, was a white produced from non-white parents), Airdrie Apache has proven a prolific source of white and paint Thoroughbreds. In this, he is following in the hoof prints of Mont Blanc II (GB), a son of Murghab (GB) who reportedly sired a number of white offspring in Europe.

So far as anyone knows, color and racing ability are not linked, and the generally indifferent record of white Thoroughbreds as racehorses probably has more to do with the modest ancestry from which most have sprung than with their color. Patchen Beauty, however, has been getting better opportunities than the previous mares of her line, and if breeders are willing to continue working to upgradie the family with decent mates, it may be only a matter of time before the first known white stakes winner appears. Compared to what is usually seen in the winner’s circle, that will be a horse of a different color indeed.

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