04/21/2014 8:12PM

Winter white


Lere Visagie couldn't believe his eyes that cold winter night, January 21, in the foaling barn at his Rockridge Stud in Hudson, NY.  Oh, sure, the dark bay broodmare foaling around midnight that night, Princesspatseattle, was splashed in white - a blaze, stockings, a belly spot.  But still....

"Everything was fine, and we got to the knees and thought, ‘Wow, this has got a lot of white!,'" Lere remembers.  "And then came the head, then shoulders.  By the time we saw the white shoulders, we thought, 'There’s trouble!  Somebody messed up.  OK, who took the mare to the shed, and where was the teaser?'"

Lere ran to his paperwork to see when the mare was bred, to whom, any details.  Everything checked out.  He himself had bred her to their stallion Bluegrass Cat. 

Lere came to the US in 1994 from his native South Africa, and the topnotch horseman learned his craft at such world-class farms as Taylor Made and Lane's End in KY and Questroyal Stud in NY.  Now the owner of Rockridge Stud, he'd never seen anything remotely like this.

There, glistening in the straw, was a white colt, liberally sprinkled with red patches.  His head was capped with red ears, a good luck marking called a 'medicine hat.'  

How did the foal's owner, Augustine Renzine, feel to learn about his white wonder?  "I was so excited!  He’s so unusual!  He’s gonna be a champion, I’m telling you."

Augustine resides on Long Island and is a Vietnam veteran, retired from the New York Transit Authority.  Although a lifelong track visitor - he enjoys gambling, at tracks like Belmont, Aqueduct and Monmouth - he and his wife Patricia only recently delved into Thoroughbred ownership.

He thought it might be fun to own racehorses, and he hopped on the internet to google pedigrees and horses for sale. Up came Dalene Knight's Painted Desert Farm in Redmond, OR.  Dalene was dispersing her bloodstock, and her specialty?  Colorful Thoroughbreds, many of which were either by her 'house stallion' Airdrie Apache or out of Airdrie Apache mares.  Airdrie Apache is a stunning red-and-white paint Naevus stallion.

Augustine was more moved by the horses' pedigrees than their unusual coloration.  Princesspatseattle, by Airdrie Apache, is out of a daughter of Seattle Slew named Finance.  Finance descends from the beautiful Claiborne female family of Bayou.

Six of Dalene's horses soon headed east. 

Hindered by a breathing issue, Princesspatseattle wasn't destined to race, but she could flat-out run around her paddock in dazzling fashion.  Augustine decided to breed her, and he again went online.  He called WinStar Farm and they recommended he send her to their stallion Bluegrass Cat, who resides at Rockridge Stud in upstate NY.

"She didn't know where I was sending her, so I brought her there with the truck," Augustine says, his voice tinged with affection.  "I made sure the place was right for her. I wanted to make it that she has a good life and is comfortable there."

And so came the night when Lere couldn't believe his eyes, the night he ran to check his paperwork, the night the white colt was born.

Augustine's plans for his colt are certain, his words heartwarming.

"He’s so unusual," Augustine says. "He has the color spots and that hood. He’s going to be so pretty. If he gets to the racetrack and wins, they’re going to do write-ups on him, with his bloodlines and unusual color. 

"He's so sweet.  I want to do right by him and won’t sell him or get rid of him.  

"I’ve never been close to horses before.  But when you’re actually with them, and you see how they think and respond and respect you, and how they love you – like a dog – it’s unbelievable.  I love my horses because they give me a lot of love, too.

"I believe in the foal and know it’s a gamble.  I gamble!  I think it’ll work out.  But even if it doesn't, just to see him on the track will be a good story."

Princesspatseattle (2009, by Airdrie Apache - Finance, by Seattle Slew), as a foal at Painted Desert Farm (left); and in April 2014 at Rockridge Stud.  Below, Princesspatseattle shows her impressive flat-out running style that inspired Augustine Renzine's Thoroughbred breeding dreams.

Above:  Princesspatseattle's sire, Airdrie Apache, at Painted Desert Farm, Oregon.

Above:  Bluegrass Cat, at Rockridge Stud in December 2013.

Above:  Hunt's Corner (the dam of multiple stakes-winning San Pablo) and her Bluegrass Cat filly, checking out the colorful '14 Bluegrass Cat - Princesspatseattle colt.

Above: Playing with a friend.

Ifthe 2014 Bluegrass Cat - Princesspatseattle colt is registered as white, he will be only the third white foal registered in the Empire State, following Clarence Stewart (1977) and Clarence Stewart's son White Flight (1987).  Clarence Stewart lived out his days at his owner Leon D. Star's Long Island farm and was buried on the property.  White Flight's trail runs cold when he was sold at the Unadilla, NY, sale, quite a few years ago.  Soon afterward, I contacted the sales company to try to learn who had purchased him but was unable to get any useful response.

Princesspatseattle and her colt still reside at Rockridge Stud, where Princesspatseattle was recently bred to their stallion Trinniberg.

With thanks to Rick Bailey of the Jockey Club for his continued assistance with, and good humor about, my regular inquiries regarding white Thoroughbreds.