The racing colours (or ‘silks’) worn by jockeys in the Grand National represent the owners of the horse. They do not, as some people believe identify the jockey or horse itself. Nevertheless, taking a mental note of the silks worn by the jockey is still the quickest way to follow your horse's progress during the race.
If you want to find out the colours of your horse in the 2015 Grand National click here. If you’d like to learn a little more about racing silks/colours – read on…
Silks were first introduced by the Jockey Club in 1762. At the time racing in England was booming and meetings which had previously attracted two or three horses where becoming major events with a growing list of runners. As the number of horses grew spectators began to complain that they couldn’t tell them apart.
A solution to the problem was proposed by the Jockey Club, each owner would be required to register a unique set of colours, which their jockey must wear during a race. In those early days only plain colours were needed, as the sport of racing grew, more elaborate designs were introduce to accommodate the larger pool of owners entering the sport.
Silks are separated into three distinct areas: cap, sleeves, body and each of these can have a different pattern/shape applied to them. Although, the most sought after silks are the original plain colours, the blue of Godolphin racing being one of the most famous.
The rules govern racing colours are very strict, owners are not allowed to pick any old pattern or colour that takes their fancy.
The largest number of patterns/shapes is reserved for the body area and owners can choose from a total of 25 different patterns which include Hoops, Star, Spots, Diamonds, Cross Belts, Chevrons and the Cross Of Lorraine to name just a few. The cap has the least amount of scope for change, offering just 10 options and finally the sleeves which has 13. Under the rules only 18 approved shades of colour can be used in combination with the patterns. However, together all these variations provide over 12.6 million possible combinations.
Over 12.6 million combinations of silk designs are possible.
In big races like the Grand National or Cheltenham Gold Cup it’s not uncommon to see jockeys wearing almost identical silks. This happens because the owner has multiple horses running in the same race. If two or more horses are running for the same owner the jockeys will wear different coloured caps. Often the principle jockey will wear the white cap, leading some punters to speculate that the horse being ridden by that jockey has the best chance of winning.
If you watch lots of racing you’ll probably become familiar with certain silk designs. The green and gold hoops, often worn by top jockey A.P. McCoy, are one of the most recognised in National Hunt racing.
The famous green and gold hoops belong to Irish billionaire owner J.P. McManus. It’s not uncommon for McManus to have 4 or 5 entries into the Grand National. Another owner who will often have multiple entries is Trevor Hemmings. He has over 100 horses in training and won the Grand National in 2005 with Hedgehunter and again in 2011 with Ballabriggs.
Whenever billionaires and millionaires get involved in a sport you can be sure the price of just about everything rises. Not only do the good horses become more expensive but the cost of silks goes up too. Whilst getting a set of silks made is still relatively cheap, there is a thriving market in auctioning historically registered silks.
Due to rule changes, the number of allowed shades/colours was reduced. The Duke of Devonshire's ‘straw' silks and the late Lord Howard de Walden's ‘apricot' would no longer be allowed under the newer rules. Plain silks still remain the most prized by owners and it’s reported that Mrs Sue Magnier paid around £50,000 to see her horses run in the plain navy blue. Although typically owners could expect to pay £5000 – £7000 for a nice historical set of silks.
If you’ve ever dreamed of becoming a racehorse owner, why not play around with the online silk designer app at www.allertons.com and imagine what your jockey will be wearing when he crosses the finishing line at Aintree.