Last spring, I was at the Kentucky Derby with a friend who was new to racing. My friend asked, “Why aren’t there any white horses in the race?” I laughed and replied, “There is no such thing as white Thoroughbreds.”
In my mind, my friend was dreaming of unicorn-like creatures that could fly past their rivals and charm the crowd with their fairy-tale mystique. I agreed that it would be nice if the racing world had such gems, but there are no “unicorns” in the real world or on the race track.
Then, a few weeks ago, a white Thoroughbred showed up.
In a Lexington Herald-Leader article, Amy Wilson featured a white Thoroughbred in Kentucky. The horse wasn’t a “unicorn” in the fairy-tale sense, but he was still a majestic find.
“Chief White Fox,” is the six-month-old white colt that proved me wrong. He was born to a brown mare named “Diamonds and Lace” at Elmhurst Farm. The colt’s father, “The White Fox,” was also a white Thoroughbred from a mare named “Patchen Beauty.”
Soon after, I learned that Patchen Beauty is part of a flurry of white Thoroughbreds foaled at Patchen Wilkes Farm.
I decided to visit Patchen Wilkes Farm, the home of the founding line of white Thoroughbreds in Kentucky.
The story behind these magnificent horses is nothing short of magic. In 1963, Patchen Wilkes Farm registered the first white Thoroughbred in North America with The Jockey Club. Her name was “White Beauty” and she seemed to simply “appear” from a union between two ordinary brown horses.
Barry Ezrine, Farm Manager at Patchen Wilkes, explained that the rare coloring of White Beauty was a mutation at the time of her birth. The mutation evolved into a recessive gene, which is apparent from the lineage of White Beauty.
In the foyer at Patchen Wilkes, a large painted portrait of White Beauty hangs alone in remembrance of the founding matriarch of the white Thoroughbred line at the farm.
The legacy of White Beauty takes shape in a patchwork of photos on the adjacent walls. There are pictures of white Thoroughbreds racing, playing in the fields and posing on the front page of the newspapers. It is as if you have entered the gates of a fairy-tale castle.
In the fields, a few white Thoroughbreds graze among their brown counterparts. These white wonders have left their own mark in the world of racing.
Patchen Beauty won two races during her career and has delivered five white foals. Today, she resides at the farm along with her snow-white daughter, “Spot of Beauty.” They are both currently pregnant.
Patchen Beauty’s son, “Patchen Prince,” stands guard in the front paddock of the farm. During his career, he won two races, placed twice and showed in three of his thirteen outings. The stark-white gelding is a gentle presence at the farm, greeting guests, accepting kisses and posing for photos.
Yet, the white Thoroughbreds are more than simple figures of beauty.
They are racehorses.
And, they continue to strive to prove their worth in the racing world. “White Prince,” the son of Patchen Beauty, is currently attempting to break his maiden as a two-year-old at Turfway Park. He is anticipated to make his next start on December 3rd.
When I marveled at the idea of a white Thoroughbred winning a major race, Ezrine didn’t count out the possibility of fairy-tale ending. “There’s always Seattle Slew,” he remarked with a playful smile.
The six-month-old Chief White Fox is pointing toward a racing career as well, according to his owner, Paul Brown. During my interview with Brown, he remarked that white Thoroughbreds would make a great holiday story.
In the spirit of his remark, I joked with Brown as his white colt swirled around the paddock, “Who do you think could pull a sleigh faster between a reindeer and your horse?” He glanced at his spirited colt and answered with a twinkle in his eye, “Chief White Fox.”
I hope he’s right.
Yet, I’ve learned not to doubt white Thoroughbreds.
They certainly exist. I simply failed to imagine that possibility.
Now that I have seen them, I imagine the possibilities they behold.