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Popular racehorse owner and breeder Geoff White has died in Sydney aged 81 after a short illness.

A prominent engineer who was honoured with the Order of Australia Medal in 1998, White and his wife Beryl have been familiar faces at racetracks for many decades with their distinctive purple and white silks on display in some of Australia’s biggest races.

After studying part time for his civil engineering degree while working for local governments around country NSW, White branched out on his own in 1967 and formed a public company in 1971.

White Industries’ notable undertakings included the National Gallery, the National Mint and the High Court in Canberra and the Darwin Casino.

In 1974 the Whites bought their first racehorse and in 1981 shelled out a then hefty $50,000 for a yearling, who raced as Marscay in winning the 1982 Golden Slipper and later became the foundation sire for the couple’s breeding dynasty.

Marscay’s daughter Triscay was a five-time Group One winner while Eremein and Yippyio were also multiple Group One winners.

The Whites were loyal clients of the late trainer Jack Denham and his son Allan and gave all their horses seven letter names, deemed lucky by many.

“Mr White’s passing is a very sad day for racing in this state,” Racing NSW chief executive Peter V’landys said.

“Geoff was an extremely keen racegoer and few would be unfamiliar with Geoff and Beryl’s famous white and purple colours carried to victory by such great horses as Eremein and Marscay. Geoff will be missed greatly by the entire racing industry.”

White is survived by his wife Beryl, children Helen, Sue, Greg and Judy and his grandchildren and great grandchildren.

A memorial service is planned for Friday July 13.

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