Kentucky Derby Racing Silks

The Kentucky Derby has significantly evolved over recent years and in today’s history lesson we will be taking a look back at Kentucky Derby racing silks as we ready ourselves for the 2014 Kentucky Derby.

Horse racing silks date back to nearly 1750 and were first introduced in England. Due to the lack of programs, television monitors and other devices to tell one jockey from another, it was critical for judges to recognize who won a race. Over the years it became a requirement for each horse owner to register their colors and patterns (silks) which also had to pass muster with The Jockey Club before horses were allowed to race in the United States. Originally, all the jackets or shirts were made of silk fabric but today they are made of synthetic fibers.

Kentucky Derby Racing Silks

Several of the more iconic silks that have been successful at the Kentucky Derby are from the Meadow, Howard, and Whitney Stables. Meadow’s blue and white blocks, blue sleeves and white stripes were on Secretariat’s jockey and also on the famous Riva Ridge. “The greatest sight in racing,” according to Penny Chenery, who raced Riva Ridge and Secretariat, “is seeing a horse, with your silks on, coming down the stretch on the lead.” A set of Secretariat’s silks is still on display at the school where Christopher Chenery, Penny’s father and founder of Meadow Farm, studied engineering and graduated in 1909.

The Howard Stable sported a red, white triangle and “H,” white sleeves. Howard’s horses Seabiscuit, Kayak II, and Noor were the most famous. In 2003, three sets of the silks worn by George Woolf when he rode Seabiscuit were auctioned off for $1,700, $1,100, and $1,000.

The famous Sonny Whitney Stables’ jockeys wore an Eton blue jacket and brown cap. As the story goes, in 1898 the Earl of Durham’s horses had lost him a great deal of money, but his silks were among the oldest in English racing and William Whitney, Sonny’s grandfather, coveted them. He asked the earl for his price. “You can have them,” the earl said. “They’ve been of no luck to me.”

The silks found their way to the U.S. Harry Payne Whitney, Sonny Whitney’s father, bred and raced Regret, the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby.

February 24, 2014 by : Posted in 2014 No Comments

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