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 2023 Grand National click here. If you’d like to learn a little more about racing silks/colours – read on…
The Introduction Of Silks In Racing
The Jockey Club first introduced silks in 1762. At the time, racing in England was booming and meetings that had previously attracted two or three horses were 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 where 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 but as the sport of racing grew, more elaborate designs were introduce to accommodate the larger pool of owners entering the sport.
How Are Racing Silks Designed?
Silks are separated into three distinct areas: cap, sleeves and body. 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 largest number of patterns/shapes is reserved for the body area. 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 have 13 choices.
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.
However, if you really want to create a totally bespoke silk, the BHA does allow a design that is not required to conform to all of the usual restrictions. You can submit your original idea and successful applicants will be offered the right to register the colours for a fee of £5,000 (+ VAT).
Same Silk, Different Cap
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 jockeys, 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 in the Grand National.
Another owner who will often have multiple entries is Gigginstown House. Owned by Michael O’Leary, his maroon silks with a white star in the middle is often seen in the winners enclosure.
Frequently he has so many entries that he almost runs of out different coloured caps for all his jockeys!
How Much Do Racing Silks Cost?
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.
Recognising that not all owners stay in the game the BHA now offers makes it easier for owners who are keen to sell the right to register their colours.
They have introduced a new facility where you can advertise your silks for prospective owners to purchase. For as little as £650 you could own your set of silks and save yourself a lot of money!
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.