For the sixth consecutive year Old Friends and I have teamed up for our annual online Derby hat auction called “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” that begins on November 1st and continues all the way to the Derby. The 6-month auction series features one-of-a-kind couture Derby hats that I have created to honor specific horses who now live at Old Friends.
As a milliner and a horse lover it is a passion creating these auction hats for Old Friends. And this month’s chapeau created to honor one of their newest retirees, Game On Dude, has been extra special.
Christmas came in early October this year when the glorious news hit the racing wires that Game On Dude was being retired to Old Friends. Thanks to the help of his owners and his trainer, Bob Baffert, on October 7, 2014 The Dude landed at Dream Chase Farm with fellow racing star, Amazombie.
To celebrate The Dude’s extraordinary career and arrival to Old Friends, I created the “Game On Dude” chapeau.
In a Bloodhorse article that came out just prior to Game On Dude’s arrival at Old Friends, President and founder of Old Friends, Michael Blowen stated, “We are thrilled that Bob Baffert and the owners of Game On Dude are entrusting Old Friends with their spectacular racehorse.” And he added, “Now I know how the people of Cleveland felt when LeBron James signed with the Cavs.”
My research for the hat was easy since so much has been written about Game On Dude’s achievements. Kentucky-bred Game On Dude was a 3-time Santa Anita Handicap winner and millionaire, retired with earnings of just under $6.5 million. The 7-year-old gelding won 16 of his 34 starts, including 14 graded stakes and, notably, two editions of both the Hollywood Gold Cup and Goodwood/Awesome Again Stakes.
When I asked Old Friends volunteer, Beth Shannon, her impression of Game On Dude she told me, “He is absolutely a sweetie. He’s also one cool dude in the sense of a certain smooth elegance with one of the most refined, elegant heads I’ve ever seen on a Thoroughbred. No frills and no uneven edges about his personality, just plenty of grace and style. If I were designing a visual tribute to Game On Dude, I’d make it cool, sleek and dynamic in a daring, graceful way.”
I couldn’t wait to get started on the hat that would showcase the Dude’s racing accomplishments, his medium bay coloring, his friendly, “cool dude” personality and his racing silk colors of royal blue, deep pumpkin orange and white piping!
A swirling black brocade underbrim was selected to reflect the undulating, rippling motion of the magnificently muscled Thoroughbred athlete stretched out at full gallop.
The edge of the brim was trimmed with a unique ruffled brim edge which allows light to pass through the sheer fabric. Handcrafted out of black silk organza overlaid with chocolate brown silk “pinstripes”, the resulting look is one of smooth elegance befitting the very coolest of dudes.
Now for the centerpiece! I fashioned a large rose curl out of alternating layers of deep pumpkin orange silk, cinnamon organza and pale peach organza for the front of the hat. Deep royal blue satin and organza leaves were fashioned to frame the rose.
For a final touch to the centerpiece, eight black silk organza “feathers” lined with shimmering gold organza were set behind the rose curl to reflect The Dude’s eight Grade 1 wins and, most especially, his record three Santa Anita and two Hollywood Gold Cup victories.
As a physical remembrance of Game On Dude, several strands of the great gelding’s tail hairs were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Game On Dude not only in spirit but in substance as well.
Soon the hat was on its way to Old Friends for the big photo shoot with Rosie Napravnik! For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the photo shoot, please visit the video footage provided by EquiSport Photos.
We want to extend a big thank you to Rosie Napravnik who is always a super model for our auction hats as well as to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos who worked their photographic magic once again. The dress that Bella Rose Clothing Boutique, Lexington, Kentucky furnished for Rosie matched the chapeau beautifully. Our thanks to you all!
The “Game On Dude” auction hat goes up for bid December 1st on this Game On Dude EBay link; bidding ends December 11th at 8 PM EST.
Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Game On Dude” chapeau and the horse who inspired it.
Thank you for visiting Hats and Horses and for helping me welcome home, Game On Dude!