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A rare type of filly delights racing fans in Japan

Sodashi won the Victoria Mile on Sunday with a closing rally and received a particularly loud roar from fans at the Tokyo Hippodrome. The cheers didn’t come exclusively from those who bet she would win at 5-1. The filly caused a stir in Japanese horse racing circles because of her colour: pure white.

Thoroughbred white horses are extremely rare: only one in 100,000 is considered pure white. To qualify, the horse’s entire coat must be white and cannot have any other color. Sodashi meets this definition.

Other light-colored horses you might see at the track are registered as gray (a mixture of black and white hair) or roan (red or brown and white). Some of them may turn whiter as they age, but are still not considered the rare white horse.

Many gray and roan horses have done well over the years, including Kentucky Derby winners like Spectacular Bid in 1979, Winning Colors in 1988, and Silver Charm in 1997. But the handful of white horses hadn’t really distinguished until the arrival of Sodashi.

Sodashi is the first white horse in Japan to win a Group 1 race and, along with white horses in other equally rare nations, should be considered the best of his color.

Recent research has shown that white horses are the product of spontaneous genetic mutations. Some of these mutations are dominant, so horses can potentially pass on the color white no matter who they are bred to.

Sodashi’s father, Kurofune, was gray. But the key to her color is undoubtedly on her mother’s side. His mother, Buchiko, was striking in her own way, white with brown spots. Her mother’s mother, Shirayukihime, was, like her granddaughter, pure white. (Shirayukihime translates to “snow white”.)

Sodashi first caught the eye with a five-game winning streak in 2020 and 2021 that included the Japanese 1000 Guineas. But she then had a bad run of form until a return to her best level on Sunday. His exploits earned him the nickname of White Wonder.

The sight of the snow-white Sodashi rushing across the field had a cinematic quality to it. The impression was amplified by jockey Hayato Yoshida’s unusual all-white bridle.

“As today’s race featured a very strong field, it was like a dream for a white horse to be able to win a Group 1 race at Tokyo Racecourse,” Yoshida told Japan Racing.

The win qualifies 4-year-old Sodashi to compete in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf in early November at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., as well as two major French races in August and September. It is not known if she will participate: her trainer Naosuke Sugai has not yet made a decision on an international trip for the filly. Wherever it goes, it will undoubtedly make a surprising visual impression.

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