03/17/2010 12:00AM

Rare white horse to make his debut


Turfway Park racing fans who stick around for the 12th and last race Friday night will play witness to a racing rarity. Arctic Bright, one of just 101 Thoroughbreds ever registered as white with the Jockey Club, will make his career debut in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race at the Florence, Ky., track.

"He's gotten a lot of attention for obvious reasons," said Matt Kintz, who trains Arctic Bright for Paul and Berva Megson, who paid $80,000 for Arctic Bright as a weanling at the 2007 Keeneland November sales.

Arctic Bright is a 3-year-old Oregon-bred with bloodlines best described as obscure, at least for Kentucky. The colt is by Painting Freedom, whose sire, Airdrie Apache, has sired a number of white foals during a stud career at Painted Desert Farm in eastern Oregon.

Paul Megson, who lives in Calvert City in far western Kentucky and trains a small stable of Thoroughbreds, said he and his wife, Berva, bought the colt "kind of as a novelty."

"There's no question that he doesn't have the $80,000 pedigree," Megson said "but we thought he was a tremendous individual. Actually, my 14-year-old daughter, Valerie, really wanted him. She loves him."

Megson said Arctic Bright "has the dominant sabino gene," which accounts for the colt's rare coloring. There is no such thing as a true albino Thoroughbred, although white horses have a pinkish color that reminds people of albinos.

Arctic Bright "is quite an oddity," Megson said. "He's double registered as Thoroughbred and Paint, so we can breed him to Thoroughbred, Paint, and Quarter Horse mares and get registered foals from all of them. I imagine he'd throw a lot of white on his babies. There's quite a market for people who want to put white in their program."

Megson said he intends to stand Arctic Bright at stud as early as next year, depending on how the colt's racing career pans out. Megson originally had given Arctic Bright to trainer Ivan Vasquez last summer at Beulah Park before turning him over in December to Kintz, who is based primarily at Mountaineer Park. Kintz has been deputized by his stepbrother Craig Huston in the care of Arctic Bright at Turfway, where the colt has had five recorded workouts leading up to his Friday debut.

"He's been a little bit of a handful, and it took excellent work from Craig to get him his gate card," Kintz said.

Asked whether the colt will be competitive when facing eight opponents Friday night, Kintz paused and said: "He's worked okay, but not phenomenal by any means. We're hoping he's just now starting to figure things out."

Arctic Bright actually will be the second white horse to race in Kentucky within the last year. Patchen Prince, bred and owned by the Patchen Wilkes Farm of Warren Rosenthal and trained by Bill Connelly, raced five times during the winter of 2008-09 at Turfway, winning maiden and allowance races in that time. He also finished last of eight in a Keeneland allowance race last April.

Now 5, Patchen Prince has been retired after suffering a condylar fracture last summer at Indiana Downs, where he earned a highly respectable 84 Beyer Speed Figure when finishing second in a second-level allowance race in May.

"He actually could run a little bit," said Connelly, who said he has taken notice of Arctic Bright during morning training at Turfway.

Patchen Prince was one of three white foals to race that were produced by Patchen Beauty, a 15-year-old white mare whose mother, Precious Beauty, also was white. Precious Beauty was out of World O'Beauty, who was out of White Beauty, who in 1963 became the first Thoroughbred registered white since the Jockey Club had assumed responsibility for the American Stud Book in 1896.

John Cooney, communications supervisor for the Jockey Club, said Wednesday that while white Thoroughbreds once were extraordinarily rare, their numbers have increased significantly in recent years. Cooney said the foal crop of 2007 is believed to have numbered 19 white horses, representing a marked increase from decades past. When Patchen Prince was foaled in 2005, he was reported to be just the 31st registered white foal.

The last race Friday at Turfway is scheduled for 10:35 p.m. Eastern on a card that begins at 5:30. TVG will have race coverage.