10/13/2010 10:41AM

Goodbye to The White Fox

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The White Fox is dead.

And his death this spring went unnoticed, unlike 2002, when mainstream publications from USA Today to National Geographic trumpeted the boy king’s arrival.

There had been white Thoroughbreds before – The White Fox was the nineteenth ever registered. But his birth, at Patchen Wilkes Farm, signaled an unprecedented three straight alabaster generations. His dam Patchen Beauty, winner of two races and over $50,000, boasted an online fan club. His grandmother was an unraced white mare named Precious Beauty. And his fourth dam, White Beauty, born in 1963, was the first horse ever registered as “white” by the Jockey Club.

The White Fox – the first male member of the Patchen Wilkes’ whites – was more than a brilliant coat. His dam was by Hatchet Man and he was by Pioneering – probably not a Triple Crown pedigree, but certainly the pedigree of a racehorse.

I, too, went on a pilgrimage to Patchen Wilkes that spring of 2002. There, Patchen Beauty and her son relaxed in a sunlit stall of white walls and golden straw.

I peered through the rungs at the unbelievable colt, and he gazed boldly back through long white eyelashes. He turned, walked to the back window to peer out, and then marched back toward me. And then, apparently realizing I was not a potential playmate, he plopped down in the stall. In a few minutes he was dozing, with his nose nestled on his soft white knees. The scene was surreal and the duo seemed like apparitions, or illustrations in a children’s book.

Later, when the mare and foal were led to their paddock, Patchen Beauty darted away across the vast green field as her colt – adorned in a tiny white halter – struggled to keep up. Patchen Beauty had seen enough of this inquisitive photographer. Her white flag of a tail haughtily waved goodbye.

Eventually, however, she decided I wasn’t worth worrying about on this warm morning and she dropped her head to graze. I moved closer. Her colt, delighted by my proximity, boldly approached. His wavy white tail swished. His large ears – which featured a few red hairs – were propped keenly forward. His pink nose stretched out toward the camera. He was ready for his close-up.  

                                         
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I saw The White Fox just one more, when the young stallion was beginning his breeding career at Hopewell Farm. By then he was five years old and still a fan favorite, with a website that offered T-shirts and children’s books. Raced by Patchen Wilkes Farm, he had won one race in eight starts and three times finished third.

When I arrived, he was still a vision in white, peering out the back window of his stall. And he was still playful and proud – cocky, even – when led outdoors for a quick photo session. The White Fox had grown up.

On that blustery January afternoon his youthful attitude, white coat and dark eyes were still captivating. He clearly relished the brisk winter breeze and seemed quite pleased to have an opportunity to pose. Although his head was a few sizes larger than five years earlier, it was still adorned in a white leather halter.

And when The White Fox cast an imperial glance my way…well, he was still my boy king.

                         

While he was living back at Patchen Wilkes last winter, he colicked.  He underwent surgery. This spring he again took ill and the eight-year-old stallion was shipped to Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.  There, the diagnosis was a ruptured intestine. He could not be saved. I’d heard rumor of his passing, and Patchen Wilkes Farm manager Barry Ezrine confirmed the sad news.

Patchen Wilkes Farm is still home to three white Thoroughbreds: Patchen Beauty, her daughter Spot of Beauty and her son Patchen Prince. Patchen Beauty’s four foals over age two are all winners, including a stakes-placed Skip Away gelding named Skip the Hatchet.

At the recently concluded Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic sale, a white colt by The White Fox was an RNA at $40,000.

The White Fox sired two foals in 2008. Neither of those is recorded as white, but four of his five 2009 arrivals were. There is no color yet recorded for his four 2010 offspring.

One mare is in foal to The White Fox for 2011. She is a nurse mare named Sally.

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With thanks to Barry Ezrine, Patchen Wilkes Farm, and John Cooney of The Jockey Club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To view more photographs of the Patchen Wilkes Farm white thoroughbreds, please visit barbaradlivingston.photoshelter.com/gallery/Patchen-Wilkes-white-Thoroughbreds-The-White-Fox-Patchen-Beauty-Precious-Beauty-Late-n-White/G00005nHvg56yoLw/