Silk Colors and Patterns for the Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is nothing if not colorful. From the fashion to the saddle towels and even the red roses draped over the winner of the most prestigious event in horse racing, nothing is more colorful than the silks carried to post by each of the Kentucky Derby contenders representing each owner. The history of silks goes even farther back than the 143-year history of the Run for the Roses itself.

When organized horse racing first began in the early 18th century, there were no such things as program numbers, public address systems or closed circuit television. When England’s King Charles II first assembled race meets on the plains of Hempstead, the dukes and the barons had trouble figuring out which horse was which so they adopted racing silks – or colors – to distinguish their jockeys for easier viewing. And because they were made out of silk, they were referred to as “silks” and have kept the moniker since.

During the time of King Charles II, silks designs were simple. Red for one duke, black for another duke, orange for one earl, white for another earl, and so on. Today, since there are so many owners, silks have become even more colorful. The jockeys’ room at Churchill Downs houses thousands of silks, which are hung on pegs in the order of each jockey’s races for that day.

For this year’s 144th Running of the Kentucky Derby, the following silks will be seen by millions around the world. The silks for the top 23 are listed in order of preference by prep race point totals.

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Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters, Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager. She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several race horse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull as her favorite horse of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, three Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.