Hats Off to Saratoga!


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Thank you for joining me for the debut of the brand new Saratoga Hat Collection by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®!

Blog-SydneyDer197-001B-Web.MedI’ve been dying to do this for YEARS!

Here in this new collection you’ll find fancy ladies’ hats especially selected for the annual races at Saratoga Race Course in Saratoga Springs, NY.

JudysLizaDer13-125BOpening Day at the Spa is Friday, July 24th, and racing continues all the way through Labor Day.

AnnabelleDer7-009B-Web.LgStunning hats are one of the many traditions of horse racing at the Spa.

Blog-SallitaDer6-038A-Web.LgBlog-LizaDer13-096EOver the years Saratoga Race Course has seen the likes of such Thoroughbred superstars as Whirlaway, Dr. Fager, Secretariat, Man O’ War, Holy Bull, Blind Luck and Rachel Alexandra.

Originally a racetrack for Standardbred racing during the early 1800’s, Thoroughbred racing came to Saratoga Springs in 1863 thanks to the efforts of John Hunter, William R. Travers, John Morrissey and Cornelius Vanderbilt. Since then the meet has become an annual racing tradition that lasts 60 days and comes to a close on Labor Day.

Blog-SallitaSMM6-039AAMAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® specializes in custom hats, so please email me at sally@maggiemae.com for help in creating just the look that will make your special day of racing at Saratoga a truly memorable one!

Blog-SallitaDer6-042B-Web.MedPlease visit the new Saratoga Hats collection, and let me know if you have a great idea for a custom chapeau that will help you make a Saratoga statement that is truly all your own!

Blog-AnnabelleSMM7-010B-CropBlog-AnnabelleLeeDer180-001AAndreaDer188-001E-Web.MedI hope you enjoy the new collection, and thank you for visiting me here at Hats and Horses!


Reflections on a Crown – Part III


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My “Darby” hat was going to the Belmont to help Leigh McKathan and her husband JB cheer on American Pharoah for the last leg of the Triple Crown!

The idea that this tiny cocktail could be the hat to see a Triple Crown champion crowned made me want to savor every single moment of its creation.

Blog-DarbyDer102-001AWeb.Lg But win or lose, American Pharoah was already a hero to me and every inch of this hat was going to have my admiration for him stitched into it.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles17-FramedI got the yellow dupioni silk foundation underway.


Next, three red rose curls, shaped out of silk organza. They reminded me of the three jewels of the Triple Crown as I clustered them together for the center of the trim design.

Blog-Darby-HatProcess3ABlog-Darby-HatProcess3B-copy Four silk organza “feathers” came next, wired for shaping.

Blog-Darby-HatProcess5AA multi-layered bow in red silk organza was created and added.

Curly organza tails were next. I attached them so they spilled off the back of the hat, reminding me of Pharoah’s short tail swirling behind him when he runs.

Blog-Darby-HatProcess9Red veiling was used to drape across the front of the hat.

Blog-Darby-HatProcess12BIn a departure from the original Darby trim design, I chose to add three instead of two red accent buttons in honor of American Pharoah’s Triple Crown bid.

Blog-Darby-HatProcess15Two for the roses…

Blog-Darby-HatProcess15AAnd one for the back of the hat.
Blog-Darby-HatProcess17For the finishing touches, a lining was created from red satin and the label was hand stitched into place.

Blog-Darby-HatProcess18 It was time to send the “Darby” to Leigh and JB in the Big Apple!

Blog-Darby-HatProcess23Belmont day dawned, bathed in an almost storybook sunshine.

It was American Pharoah’s chance to prove whether he was a really good racehorse or truly a great one.

Leigh looked amazing in her “Darby” cocktail hat and matching yellow Dooney & Bourke handbag. I could not have felt more proud…

Blog-LeighMcMathan-Belmont2015-AmericanPharoah3-FramedBefore we knew it, the moment of the big race had arrived.

American Pharoah shifted back in the starting gate just before it opened and his break was a fraction slow. But Victor Espinoza quickly hustled his mount to the front, and going into the first turn you could see Pharoah’s big bay ears pointing straight up as he led the field onto the backstretch.

At the top of the stretch where we had seen so many good horses run out of steam in the past, American Pharoah found another gear and actually accelerated in the final quarter. There were challenges but somewhere down that long homestretch it became clear that American Pharoah was the horse and nothing was going to stop him.

Long before Pharoah even crossed that finish line, one could hear the screams, “He did it, he DID it!

Blog-AmericanPharoah-LydiaWilliams1Leigh sent me photos of their moments following the race. I was so thrilled to see my “Darby” part of every magical moment…
Blog-LeighMcMathan-Belmont2015-AmericanPharoah1-FramedBlog-LeighMcMathan-Belmont2015-AmericanPharoah2-FramedEmbraced by a nation, American Pharoah had become America’s hero. Proving all the experts wrong, he mended our broken hearts about Triple Crowns of the past and gave us back a future where Triple Crowns are possible again.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-StephenFosterNight-LauraBattles1-Framed American Pharoah, Seabiscuit, Secretariat…

Why are we so passionately drawn to our truly great equine champions?

Perhaps watching our heroes struggle, dig deep and grab a hold of that something intangible that makes them win, makes us reflect back on our own lives, inspiring us to think again about some old dream we shoved aside because we were told long ago that it would never come true.

Maybe what we really saw in American Pharoah’s Triple Crown achievement is not only his quest but our own secret longing to still achieve our impossible dream.

And now, because of a horse named American Pharoah, we have seen the spark of that dream come alive again…

In the reflections on a Crown.

AmericanPharoah-BelmontStakes2015-Horse-and-TrophyThank you, Leigh McKathan, for making my own “impossible” dream of someday seeing a hat of mine at Belmont Park for the crowning of a new Triple Crown champion, come true.

And thank you, American Pharoah!


This is Part III in a 3-part series.

To view the other 2 parts of “Reflections on a Crown”  – Part I” Part II

Reflections on a Crown – Part II


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Preakness Day arrived and the second jewel in the Triple Crown was on the line for American Pharoah.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles32-FramedWith a forecast for thunderstorms at post time, the stage was set for some high Triple Crown drama; the crowd was filled with anticipation.

All day long, my wonderful Preakness hat customers sent me photos from Pimlico racetrack which helped to ease the tension that I was feeling.

As predicted, a thunderstorm hit just prior to the race. By the time of the post parade you could barely make out the shapes of the horses in the wind-driven rain. Everyone wondered, Will they cancel the race?

Then, just as the last horse had been loaded into the gate we heard the announcer exclaim that a lightning bolt was seen in the skies over Pimlico. The next thing we knew, the gate flew open and the race was on!

Fortunately, American Pharoah seemed to relish the mud. Breaking from the No. 1 post position, Pharoah grabbed the lead going into the first turn and never let it go. Wire-to-wire, he and Victor crossed the Preakness finish line seven lengths ahead of Tale of Verve with barely a speck of mud on them and Pharoah’s ears straight up.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles29-FramedIt seemed that even Mother Nature could not thwart this horse’s talents or derail his team’s quest for glory. Against all odds American Pharoah appeared to be marching firmly toward Triple Crown history.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles21-FramedFollowing the race I received a surprise email from Leigh McKathan, my Derby customer whose family had originally trained American Pharoah in Ocala, Florida. People were still commenting about the “Trisha’s Zophie” hat I created for her Derby adventure, and Leigh asked if I would create the “Darby” hat for the Belmont.

My “Darby” was going to the Big Apple; my Triple Crown story was not over!

Blog-DarbyDer102-001BWeb.LgAmerican Pharoah’s story thus far had been an amazing one. And now, two jewels were in his pocket, with one remaining.

But was he good enough? Could American Pharoah take this all the way and win the third jewel and the Triple Crown?

We were all about to find out at Belmont Park where my “Darby” chapeau was along for the ride!

Please visit me again soon for Part 3 of “Reflections on a Crown”.


This is Part II in a 3-part series.

To view the other parts of “Reflections on a Crown – Part I” ; Part III

Reflections on a Crown – Part I


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It was a beautiful June day in the Big Apple and American Pharoah was poised in the starting gate at the Belmont Stakes, set to begin the final leg of the Triple Crown.

For a moment, we all held our breath; no horse had captured the elusive ‘Crown since Affirmed did it in 1978. Was the impossible dream possible?

And moments later as American Pharoah neared the finish line you could hear the collective roar of an entire nation as the 37-year-long drought came to an end and he became the 12th Triple Crown winner in American horse racing history!

Blog-AmericanPharoah-LydiaWilliams2In the days that have passed since the race I have had a chance to think about the enormity of what American Pharoah and his team accomplished that day at Belmont Park.

As amazing as it was, crossing the finish line first wasn’t American Pharoah’s only achievement. Long before he had won the big race, this stunning bay colt with the short tail and long, buoyant stride had already won our hearts.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-LydiaWilliams3-FramedThroughout the Triple Crown season, on social media and in countless interviews, the Zayat family owners and trainer Bob Baffert had continuously invited us in to get to know their once in a lifetime racehorse.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles15-FramedBlog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles24-FramedWe became enamored with this sweet colt’s kindness and incredible poise.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles5-FramedAnd somewhere along the way, American Pharoah became our horse, America’s horse.

Like the great Seabiscuit before him, he was a horse that we had come to care about. We were pulling for him to win and make the dream of a Triple Crown come true.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles23-FramedI am one of those people that was drawn to American Pharoah, and I’d like to share my very special connection with his Triple Crown journey.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles28-FramedI grew up in a family where we watched the Triple Crown races every spring. I’ve cheered on Triple Crown hopefuls all the way from Majestic Prince to California Chrome.

I have also been sending hats to the Triple Crown races ever since I started my couture millinery business in 1998 and have had the thrill of seeing my hats make it to the winner’s circle.

But it has always been my dream that someday one of my hats would be there at Belmont Park to see some special horse finally win that Triple Crown.

In March this year I received an email from a woman named Leigh McKathan. Leigh was in love with one of my cocktail hats, the “Trisha’s Zophie”, which she wanted to wear at the Derby.

Blog-TrishasZophieDer89-002E-Web.Lg Leigh’s husband, JB McKathan, Jr., and his brother Kevin, own and operate the McKathan Brothers Training Center near Ocala, Florida, and two of the horses they had trained as 2-year-olds were heading to the Derby.

One of the horses was Mr. Z. The other horse was American Pharoah.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-ChurchillDownsMay2015-LauraBattles20-FramedWith great anticipation I created Leigh’s hat for the first Saturday in May.

On Derby Day, Leigh sent me photos of her and JB at Churchill Downs as they nervously awaited the call to the post. Leigh looked stunning in her “Trisha’s Zophie”, so perfectly coordinated with her dress, handbag and shoes!


Much to my delight, I found out later that my little chapeau even took part in the traditional Derby walkover prior to the race. I still get goosebumps when I think about being part of this historic parade and I am so grateful to Leigh for capturing the moment and sharing it with me.

Blog-AmericanPharoah8-2015DerbyWalkover-LeighMcKathan-FramedBlog-AmericanPharoah6-2015DerbyWalkover-LeighMcKathan-FramedAmerican Pharoah’s victory in the first jewel of the Triple Crown was not an easy one. Overcoming a tough post position and the Derby stampede at the start of the race, the son of Pioneer of the Nile had to dig deep as jockey Victor Espinoza urged him on.

At the top of the stretch, Pharoah and Espinoza swung wide but somehow, together, they finally managed to pull away from Dortmund and then shake free a surprisingly game Firing Line to win the day.

In a message sent to me from her iPhone Leigh wrote just two words, “Lucky hat!” I couldn’t stop smiling as I thought of my chapeau, there in the winner’s circle as American Pharoah received his blanket of roses to the cheers of the crowd.

Blog-AmericanPharoah-2015DerbyWinnersCircle2-LeighMcKathan-FramedBlog-AmericanPharoah-2015DerbyWinnersCircle-LeighMcKathan-FramedIt was so wonderful to see Leigh’s smile as she and her family beamed in the winner’s circle! And there was my hat, making me feel like I was right there with them…

Blog-LeighMcKathan6-PendArmistead-Derby2015Two days later I received an email from Leigh. American Pharoah was heading to the second jewel of the Triple Crown, the Preakness, and she asked if I would I have time to create another hat for her. She wanted the “Darby” in bold yellow and red silks.

Blog-DarbyDer102-001AWeb.Lg With only a few days to pull it off, I got out the rolls of fabric and made the preliminary cuts for the “Darby” design so that I would be good to go as soon as Leigh’s payment arrived.

Blog-Darby-HatProcess1Unfortunately it was not to be. Leigh wrote to let me know that she and JB would not be able to attend the Preakness.

I looked over at the already-cut pieces of yellow dupioni silk sitting on my cutting table, all pinned and ready to go.

Perhaps my “Darby” was meant for another race?

Please visit me again soon for Part 2 of “Reflections on a Crown”!


This is Part I in a 3-part series

To view the other parts of “Reflections on a Crown” – Part II ; Part III


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