Jockey Silks Coloring Page

Design our own jockey silks on this blank coloring sheet
Cindy Pierson Dulay

In Thoroughbred horse racing, the jockeys wear lightweight jackets known as "silks", supplied by the owner of the horse he is riding in a given race. The owner registers the design, known as the "colors", with the Jockey Club. It is in fact a very ancient tradition; chariot drivers in Rome wore colored tunics so they could be identified during races, and the famous Palio race in Italy has the riders wearing colors to identify which village he is representing. The modern use of silks in racing dates back to 1762 in England. 19 members of the Jockey Club got together at Newmarket to register their colors, some of which you still see today - Lord Derby's silks are black with a white button and a white cap. The original objective was “for the greater convenience of distinguishing the horses in running" (in order for the prize money to go to the correct owner post-race); to a casual racing fan you might say the numbered saddlecloths have rendered the silk colors obsolete, however, modern day track announcers do use the silk colors and not the numbers to identify and call the horses' positions, as very often when a field is tightly bunched the saddle towel may be obscured but the jockeys are not. Try finding your horse first time by in the Kentucky Derby if he is boxed in midpack. You will have to look for the colors, not the number.

It is worth noting that, if you want to be "within the rules" of the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities when designing and coloring your silks, you are limited to choosing from 18 colors, 25 body designs, and 12 sleeve designs. Most owners design their colors based on some aspect of their personal or business lives. Eugene Melnyk, although originally from Canada, designed his silks using colors of the national flag of Barbados, where he resides. Bob and Beverly Lewis had green and yellow horizontal stripes, the colors of their alma mater the University of Oregon. However, the rules do allow you to put an emblem of your own design in the middle of the jacket, such as the donkey used by the original owners of California Chrome, the H in an inverted triangle used by Charles Howard with Seabiscuit, or the large "AP" monogram used by Allen Paulson.

This is not to say silks are permanent. Stronach Stables formerly used light blue with a black diamond in the center until switching to their current red, black and gold "A" design in the late 1990's. Calumet Farm during its heyday used devil's red with blue stripes on the sleeves and a blue cap, but current owner Brad Kelley changed it to black with gold chevrons. And going back to the original 19 owners, Lord Derby started with green and white stripes before switching to the aforementioned black and white which continues to today. The white button on Lord Derby's silks did not get added until 1924 due to superstition after winning his namesake race at Epsom Downs with Sansovino.

The owner silk color tradition is used in Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing but does not extend to Standardbred harness racing. In that sport, at least in North America, the drivers themselves design and own their jackets and helmets. So, even if John Campbell drives for 10 different owners in a 10 race card at The Meadowlands he will always wear his maroon and white jacket and helmet.