Silks: Commonly Asked Questions
Silks, also known as “colors”, are the colorful jackets and helmet covers that a jockey wears in a race; they are used to silently announce the owner of the horse and to also help identify the horse and jockey during the race. Each registered owner in each racing jurisdiction in the United States has their own unique set of silks. According to The Jockey Club, there are over 28,000 sets of registered silks in the United States today!
Unless you are actively involved on the backside of a racetrack, much of racehorse ownership is hands off; you likely do not see your horse daily and you are probably not making all of the day-to-day decisions when it comes to the management of your horse. For example, if you have purchased pieces of a racehorse in a syndicate (more about syndicates can be found here), the horse’s jockey is most likely going to wear the syndicate silks. However, if you form your own partnership with friends or family, or own your horse(s) outright, you will be able to design your stable’s silks including: colors chosen, pattern design, and materials used.
One commonly used handicapping tactic for newcomers is placing a wager on the horse whose jockey is wearing a “cool” set of silks!
What Are Silks Made Out Of?
Jockey silks used to be made out of actual silk and woolen materials. Those two material choices have since fallen out of popularity because of the care required and weakness of the fabric. Today, most silks are made out of nylon taffeta (looser, baggier fit) or nylon lycra (compression-like fit) due to their durability and lightweight design, and in the case of the latter construct, aerodynamic properties. In a sport that is measured in fractions of seconds, the possibility of reducing wind-resistance with a form-fitting silk is an attractive option for connections.
Do the Colors and Patterns Mean Anything?
Each set of silks is registered to one particular entity, be it a single owner or a syndicate, and while silks may be similar in color or pattern, no two sets are exactly alike. Colors and patterns may have significant meaning to owners be it a child’s favorite color or design, or it may be that the owner simply liked a particular set of colors and a design. Because silks are partially used as means to identify a horse’s owner in a race, an owner’s silks can become a household familiarity if their horses are successful.
What Size Are They?
Most silks are one size fits all, and it usually equates to a men’s medium or large. The silks must fit over the protective vests that jockeys are required to wear in races, and they also must remain tucked into the jockey’s pants for the duration of the race.
How Many Do Owners Own?
The answer to this question varies depending on the number of horses in an owner’s stable and where they horses are located. If an owner has horses at several racetracks, the owner likely has at least one set for the horses in each location. However, a smaller owner may only have one set for all of their horses. If the owner is in a syndicate, they are likely using the syndicate silks and do not own a set outright. Owners also have the option to use their trainer’s silks or the racetrack or “house” silks in the event that they do not have a set themselves.
How Much Do They Cost?
Owners can expect to pay between $180 to $250 and up. The cost of a set of silks varies depending on the materials used, intricacy of the pattern design, and the manufacturer.
Who Makes Them?
There are a variety of companies that make custom silks that an owner can look into or your trainer or racing manager may have preferred vendors.