Southern Phantom: The white-faced horse who’s the talk of the racecourse

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Southern Phantom has a pure white face, one blue and one brown eye and a balayage blonde tail

The horse got its name after a competition was held by a weekly news magazine

CNN  — 

His career as a racehorse has barely begun, yet according to his trainer people are already lining up for a chance to use Southern Phantom as a stud.

The two-year-old colt hasn’t even won any of the three races he’s run, but he’s already got the popularity of a horse that’s won a triple crown – and it’s all because of his unique look.

The social media star boasts a unique coat – a bay-colored body with a face that looks like it’s been dipped in a bucket of white paint. Southern Phantom also has mismatched blue and brown eyes, a balayage tail that feathers out to blonde and white knee-high socks.

“Most beautiful and unusual (horse) I have ever seen,” fans write on the colt’s Facebook page.

“I have never seen a thoroughbred with these markings,” another writes. “Absolute highlight of my visit to Saratoga (Race Course) this year.”

Sounterhn Phantom's face is entirely white. The horse also has one blue and one brown eye. Credit: Dona Federico

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The horse becomes the talk of the racecourse whenever he makes an appearance.

“He gets his picture taken daily. I’m kind of getting a little upset with it because I’m used to the camera’s being on me,” Southern Phantom’s colorful trainer, Eric Guillot tells CNN Sport.

Phantom of the Opera

It seems Southern Phantom was destined for fame, especially after gaining so much popularity the moment he was born.

At the time, Guillot got in touch with a friend at Bloodhorse Magazine, who then came up with the idea of holding a naming contest for the foal.

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“I was the guy who had to look through them all!” Guillot says. “We were going to let it run for a couple of weeks but it was so popular. We had 2,800 entries in four days so I said ‘hey, hey, put a halt to this thing so I can pick a name!’”

“I didn’t want to have to look through 10,000 names,” he adds.

Southern Phantom got his name after a competition was held in a weekly news magazine. Credit: Sarah Murphy

Guillot chose Southern Phantom given its a mash-up of his stable name, Southern Equine Stables, and a fitting tribute to the white mask from the musical, Phantom of the Opera.

“There were 2,799 haters because we didn’t use their name,” Guillot laughs.

‘We’ve got to put suncream on his face’

Though with Southern Phantom’s pure white markings, comes sensitive skin – he even has to wear suncream.

“His skin’s very sensitive with all the white and the pigment is a really pronounced pink,” explains Guillot.

“When he’s out in the paddock you’ve got to put suncream on his face. Even the grain mix makes his nose really pink, so you have to wash it off every day,” the trainer says.

Guillot says during his entire career as a trainer he’s never seen a thoroughbred as unique as Southern Phantom.

“I’d seen Jack Van Berg in the early 90s with Tri Chrome which the body had a lot of white, like a paint horse, but never the uniqueness of a total white head horse with two different colored eyes and that much white on its belly and tail.”

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Guillot’s not quite sure where his horse’s splashed white pattern came from.

Southern Phantom’s sire is Bodemeister – the Bob Baffert-trained horse who won the 2012 Arkansas Derby and placed second at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes the same year. And his dam, Out For Revenge, was sired by 2005 Preakness Stakes champion, Bernardini. All three horses were bays, with Bodemeister having a white blaze on his face.

Bodemeister prior to the 137th Preakness Stakes in 2012.

Mutation?

“The short answer to why is his coat like that, there is likely a mutation in one or more of the genes involved in pigmentation,” professor and director of the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory at UC Davis, Rebecca Bellone tells CNN.

“There are several hundred genes that have been described in mammals to be involved in pigmentation,” she says, adding it’s impossible to tell by simply looking at the horse.