CYPRESS – Passionforfashion trotted between the stables of the Doug O’Neill barn at Los Alamitos Race Course. Her light pink skin peeped through her snow white coat as the August sun continued to dry the water off from her post-exercise bath.
She dropped her head as she approached minority owner Steve Rothblum, revealing a gentle demeanor that softens what could be a daunting appearance, likened to that of a horse from an age-old epic ridden into battle by the tale’s hero.
“Quite the oddity, isn’t she?” Rothblum said.
The 2-year-old filly had stretched out for her second half-mile earlier that morning, though it had gone a bit awry. She skimmed the track railing coming out of a turn, consequently throwing her exercise jockey onto the infield lawn.
“See what I mean by she’s a little green in the way she learns?” Rothblum said upon returning to the grandstand after running down to make sure the jockey was unharmed.
The only visible damage from the incident was the faint line which ran across Passionforfashion’s left forearm and reconnected on her hind leg, a small reminder of the maturing she has left to do before making her debut.
“She is a little bit more immature than the average 2-year-old we get from the farm,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “It’s taken a little bit longer for her to progress, but in my mind, she still has a lot of room for improvement.”
Rothblum attributes this to a slight learning curve, noting that it sometimes takes her two or three tries at something before she’s comfortable.
“It’s not to be unexpected,” he said. “It’s just her.”
Despite it being a sometimes slower process, she has steadily shown progress since arriving at Los Alamitos a few months ago. She worked her first half-mile just one week earlier, clocking in at a little under 48 seconds – and from Rothblum’s observations, she had significantly lengthened her stride for her second attempt that morning.
“Every week she’s worked a little bit better,” O’Neill said. “The excitement is still there, that she has the ability to match her look.”
It’s not only a look that demands the attention of everyone around her, but a look that has garnered the attention of white horse associations who have been particularly intrigued at the prospect of a fully white thoroughbred.
“Anytime anybody sees her,” Rothblum said, “they make an offer.”
It’s an impulse reaction he and his partner Daniel Kramer can easily relate to.
The pair had traveled to Good Win Farm in Paris, Ky., to visit another filly they now have in training when the striking white coat of a young filly chasing her mother around caught their attention. That is, of course, when they made the offer which brought her under their care.
Rothblum, who has been a part of the racing world since childhood, understands the rarity of an all-white horse. However, it can be difficult to put into perspective, though it helps to understand no white horse has won a North American stakes race.
A mutation in the gene known to equine science as “KIT” is responsible for the white coloring in horses’ coats, but for reasons yet fully understood by research, how one ends up wholly white like Passionforfashion did, as opposed to only half, cannot be explained definitively.
Passionforfashion was sired by Old Fashioned, who has either the roan or sabino allele of KIT, which left him spotted white. Her dam, Turf Club, also appears to be roan, despite being registered as white.
While her appearance is surely the primary draw, her body and build alone would have been enough for Rothblum to gamble on her.
“One of the things that made us buy her, too, was she was a good-looking filly, whether she was bay or white, it didn’t matter,” Rothblum said. “She was very well put together.”
It’s something that also enticed and continues to encourage O’Neill.
“She’s a good size,” he said. “We were excited when we got her, and we’ve continued to be optimistic. You really don’t know her true ability until we get further along.”
O’Neill said when she begins to work out of the gate, they’ll have a better idea of when she’ll be ready for her first race. As of last week, she had stood inside and had galloped out when let go by hand, but being able to break running will be the next step.
There is a possibility she could make one of the final two weeks at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club’s summer season, but her connections are leaving it up to her. Otherwise, she could debut at Los Alamitos’ fall meet in September.
“She’ll tell us,” Rothblum said. “We can’t tell her when to run.”