Since the 18th century different coloured 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, commentators and race watchers.
Here are some of the world's most recognisable racing silks:
Jockeys riding the champion race horse Phar Lap from his first race in 1929 until his last in late 1930, wore these colours.
Phar Lap won 37 of his 51 starts. Of those races still in existence, twelve are now officially accorded Group One status.
Secretariat was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who, in 1973, became the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years. His record-breaking win in the Belmont Stakes, where he left the field 31 lengths behind him, is widely regarded as one of the greatest races of all time.
Nijinsky, known as Nijinsky II in the US, was a Canadian-bred, Irish-trained Thoroughbred racehorse and sire. He was the outstanding two-year-old in Europe in 1969 when he was unbeaten in five races.
In the following season he became the first horse for thirty-five years to win the English Triple Crown. He is regarded by many experts to have been the greatest flat racehorse in Europe during the 20th century.
Seabiscuit was a champion Thoroughbred racehorse in the US during the Great Depression. A small horse, standing at just 15.2hh - Seabiscuit had an inauspicious start to his racing career. However he became an unlikely champion and a symbol of hope to many Americans.
In 1937, Seabiscuit won 11 of his 15 races and was the year's leading money winner in the United States.
His famous jockey silks were the triangle H silks, which were recreated perfectly in the 2003 film of the same name.
About Jockey Silks
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. The design must 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 pants.
Racing Silks Templates
In Australia there are set limitations as to the size of the diamond, check or stripe that owners and managers must adhere to.
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 King 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.
Jockey Silks & Superstition
Superstition is rife amongst jockeys and stables when it comes to the color and patterns on silks.
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.