Kentucky Derby Traditions – Silks
Luckily for fans new to betting on the Kentucky Derby, the Churchill Downs president and committee have evolved with the times. Within the modern era of racing, fans have the luxury of betting on horses through the assistance of television monitors, programs, and the race announcer keeping you up to speed. Prior to the 18th century, fans could hardly tell the horses apart because of the lack of uniqueness.
As a result of each horse looking the same, fans wagering on each race, would become rather confused when it came to collecting bets at the end of the race. However by the 18th century it was English king Charles II who decided that silks for each horse were a necessity. Known as the earliest way to identify which horse was which, a silk is worn by jockey’s to essentially define which horse they are riding.
Each silk is a different color to assure no confusion, and each horse wears a silk with a number on it, as to inform bettors which horse they should wager on. As noted earlier, the horse racing industry has evolved over time. As a result, programs and more commonly television monitors will provide the number of the horse and the color the horse and jockey are wearing.
At the Kentucky Derby, jockey’s has over 100 silks to choose from. Further, to assure no confusion because some owners will use the same color silks, most silks have a multitude of color to them. Legendary horse owner and eight time Kentucky Derby winner holder Calumet Farm had his jockey’s and horse’s wear a devilish red and blue silk while racing to victory. Conversely, owner Allen Paulson had his champion horse Cigar, pay tribute to America by wearing the American flag colors as its silks.