Silks. Since the 18th century different colored and patterned silks have been worn by jockeys. The silks are unique to each horse owner/ manager or stable. Their color, symbols or motifs need to be easily distinguished and recognisable to judges. Originally made of silk, hence the name, modern racing silks are typically no longer made from silk. They now come in two main variations. The first being a traditional style made from nylon and taffeta blend, and the second a far superior aerodynamic outfit made from a four-way stretch nylon.
One size fits all Jockeys
Silks are custom made to suit the chosen color and pattern of the owner or stable. Prior to having them made, there are strict guidelines set up across the world and registrations to ensure that the desired silks both match the governing bodies criteria, and also have not been registered by another owner. They come in a “one size only” fit and are large enough to fit over the flack vest and long enough to stay neatly tucked into riding jodhpurs.
In Australia there are set limitations as to the size of the diamond, check or stripe that owners and managers must adhere to. Owners must check with their racing authority to see if colors and patterns are available before having their design custom made and registered.
The Jockey Club in the United States also sets sizing conditions that limit shape, color and design. This only pertains to horses racing in New York. Each state has its own set of regulations, and prior to racing in another state an owner must pre check to see if registration of silks is required. In New York, you can choose to not register your horse silks and wear the “house silks”or “club colors” instead. You may also be required to wear house silks if you do not meet a Club’s criteria.
So what happens if the silks you want are already being worn? Well, you really only have one option, and that is to wait until the current owner no longer wants them and is willing to auction them off. Silks have been known to fetch upwards of US$30,000 at auction!
Colors of Royalty
One of the most famous jockey silks is the ones belonging to Queen Elizabeth II. Red, purple, and gold adorn the silks that have been used and registered since the Queen’s great- grandfather Kind Edward VII introduced them in the late 19th century. This is one of the oldest registered set of silks in the world, and while the material may have changed over the years, the status has never faded.
The name Sheikh Mohammed is synonymous with racing. One of the most famous advocates for thoroughbred racing in the world he owns stables and breeding operations across the USA, Ireland, England and Australia. The Darley Stud silks are maroon and white and more recently Sheikh Mohammed has moved to royal blue silks to be raced under the Godolphin Group.
Superstition is rife amongst jockeys and stables when it comes to the color and patterns on silks. For some, it means very little whilst others stake their ride on it. Some jockeys are known to stamp on their new silks prior to the race. This is done to ward off any falls out on the track. At the Hong Kong Jockey Club red silks are favoured with owners as it is the color for good fortune and wards off evil. In Ireland, the four leaf clover is thought to ensure you win that pot of gold. But that’s where the luck of the green comes to a halt. Many believe green to be a color associated with bad luck in racing.
So what does it all mean? Does winning or losing all come down to the color, pattern or motif on jockeys’ silks? If you are choosing or designing your own silks how much do you put down to superstition? One thing is for certain; horses are color blind.
So no matter what the jockey in front is wearing, it makes no difference to the horse chasing it.