King Henry VIII in jockey silks! Well, not really, but in 1515, it was the first historical mention of the term “jockey silks.”
In the 1700s, silk fabrics was imported from the Orient. It was 1762, when the English Jockey Club in Newmarket officially required horse owners to identify and register their unique ownership with specific colors and/or designs as they entered races. As well as, with the increased popularity of the sport, the silks were a method of identifying a field of similar colored bay/sorrel thoroughbreds and the ownership of the silk designs. So silks became like license plates of the track, personalized identification in colors and symbols. Besides, there were not zoom lenses to identify the winning horse from a distance. The patterns and colors used originally referenced the coats of arms associated with noble English houses. Today, more than 28,000 silks are registered with the Jockey Club and over 15,000 with the British registry. The “silks” colors and designs can be inherited. One famous horse owner, Queen Elizabeth, inherited her silks from royal generations of a distinctive red and purple silks with gold embroidery.
Are some colors “more lucky?” Since horses are supposedly color blind and it makes no difference to them, but an amazing statistic of results of the UKs famous Grand National, 40% have worn a mix of blues or greens. But, if you were racing in Hong Kong, a majority would be red silks as red is a very auspicious and lucky color in Chinese culture. Interesting that famous silks adorn the dominate “blue” in US Racing. Everyone can recognize the very famous legend Secretariat with his solid blue helmet, checkered silks and blinkers. Or the mix of blues in Spectacular Bids silks. Man O War (1917) became a National sporting hero of hope and strength at the start of WWI. His silks were a distinctive black with yellow and black striped sleeves. These three silks were retired and immortalized with the horses as a sign of respect for their impressive and influential careers.
By Beverly Gray
Favoritt Arabians, Endurance Consultant,
former USA Endurance Team Member
Man-O-War Secretariat Spectacular Bid