A Genuine Reward

The year was 2011 and I was beginning a new hat line honoring famous racehorses. One of the hats, a wide brimmed “chestnut” Derby chapeau with green and white trims, was created to celebrate 1980 Kentucky Derby winner, Genuine Risk,  who with a glorious burst of speed raced past the boys and into the history books, just the second filly at the time to win the roses.

I named the hat, “The Genuine Article”. And that she was.

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Following her retirement in 1981, Genuine Risk was unlucky as a broodmare as she gave birth to only two live foals in 18 years.  “Genny’s” first of the two foals was born on May 15, 1993 at 5:05 PM. By the great stallion Rahy, he was the spitting image of his chestnut Mum.  You can tell from the video footage that he was her absolute delight. The name they chose for him was perfect: Genuine Reward.

Because of various health issues, the colt never raced; a stud career took him from Virginia to Sheridan, Wyoming.

To the surprise of many, Genuine Reward, now a 22-year-old, was discovered on Craigslist in June 2015 by “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand, a longtime supporter of Old Friends. Through the efforts of Hillenbrand and others, the blessed son of Genuine Risk was safely retired to Old Friends.

I was extremely pleased when Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends, asked me to create a hat to honor Genuine Reward, the son of this grand dame of horse racing, Genuine Risk, for whom I’d created “The Genuine Article”, just five years before.

GenuineReward-Jamie-Brian-Joshlyn-MattW2-Web.MedTo inspire me in the creation of the “Genuine Reward” hat, I called upon Old Friends volunteer Beth Shannon to tell me about the personality and spirit of the horse. Beth described Genuine Reward in the following way: “He’s really smart, really beautiful, really sweet. He’s a love, and very social.”  Everyone asked seemed to agree that Genuine Reward has settled in very well at Old Friends.

GenuineReward-LauraBattles12-Framed-MedGenuineReward-LauraBattles5-Framed-MedGenuineReward-LauraBattles17-Framed-MedA very special chapeau was needed to honor this cherished son of Genuine Risk and celebrate his new life at Old Friends. An elegant Derby design was created to showcase the stallion’s bright chestnut coloring and kind temperament, using his mother’s distinctive racing silk colors of green and white (Bertram and Diana Firestone’s stable) for the trims.

GenuineRewardHat1A-Web.MedI went online and printed out Genuine Reward’s bio, and soon had the background information that I needed.

GenuineRewardHat-Process1-Web.MedSketches were drawn…

GenuineRewardHat-Process2-Web.MedFabrics were chosen…

GenuineRewardHat-Process3-Web.MedAnd the creative process was underway!

The “Genuine Reward” hat was created as a flat wide brim design, using white dupioni silk for the brim foundation of the hat and white silk organza for the crown.

GenuineRewardHat9A-Web.MedAlternating layers of ruffled white, chocolate and gold organza were added to the outer brim to reflect the movement of the Thoroughbred athlete at full gallop.

GenuineRewardHat-Process4-Web.MedGenuineRewardHat1A-Web.MedA fancy chocolate braiding was then top stitched to the ruffled brim edges.

GenuineRewardHat-Process6-Web.MedA large dahlia flower, a new trim design by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®, was created especially for Genuine Reward.  To inspire me, I printed out images of white dahlias, and created a tiny white silk organza “dahlia template”.

GenuineRewardHat-Process7-Web.MedThe flower was then sculpted out of white silk organza with 22 petals to reflect Genuine Reward’s age when he was discovered on Craigslist and brought home to Old Friends.

GenuineRewardHat-Process8-Web.MedFor the center of the dahlia, a rose curl was crafted out of alternating layers of green and white silk organza.

GenuineRewardHat-Process10-Web.MedA medley of Spring green organza and satin leaves was then fashioned to frame the dahlia.

GenuineRewardHat-Process11-Web.MedThree 2-tone chocolate and green organza “feathers”, a MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® trademark, were carefully stitched, layered and then shaped to add the perfect finishing touch to the floral trim.

GenuineRewardHat-Process12-Web.MedA bright emerald green organza-covered taffeta sash, lined with chocolate taffeta, was fashioned to encircle the crown of the hat, and a tiny chocolate button was added to the back for the finishing touch.

GenuineRewardHat-Process15-Web.MedThe “Genuine Reward” hat measures nearly 25 inches across inclusive of the ruffled brim layers.

GenuineRewardHat6-Web.MedAs a physical remembrance of Genuine Reward, several strands of the stallion’s tail hair were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Genuine Reward not only in spirit but in substance as well.

The finished hat was photographed in our studio, packaged with care…

GenuineRewardHat-Process17-Web.MedAnd shipped on its way to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with Jamie Hernandez and her husband, jockey Brian Hernandez.

GenuineReward-Jamie-Brian-Joshlyn-MattW1-Web.MedThank you Jamie and Brian for being such super models! And your little girl Joshlyn stole the show in her own little white silk chapeau from the new “Little Silver Charm Kids’ Hat Collection” that also benefits Old Friends.

A special thank you also to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos, and to Bella Rose Clothing Boutique, Lexington, Kentucky for furnishing Jamie’s stunning emerald green dress. You can view all the photo shoot magic in this behind-the-scenes glimpse by Wendy…

Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Genuine Reward” chapeau and the horse who inspired it.

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Creating this hat to celebrate Genuine Reward has been an honor. It has brought me full circle from mother to son after creating “The Genuine Article” years ago to honor his mother, Genuine Risk; this for me is a genuine reward that goes way beyond words.


About the Auction:

The “Genuine Reward” auction hat is now up for bid on EBay and bidding ends Friday, March 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Genuine Reward the horse, please visit the Genuine Reward horse webpage.

For more information about the “Genuine Reward” Chapeau please visit the Genuine Reward hat webpage.

To see the story about Genuine Reward’s rescue and retirement to Old Friends, click on The WKYT August 2015 Genuine Reward Video.


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