A Derby Chapeau for Watchem Smokey of Old Friends at Cabin Creek

For the eleventh consecutive year MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® and Old Friends have been teaming up for a unique online shopping experience called “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby”!

An annual event, “Hats Off”  features one-of-a-kind couture Derby hats created by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® to benefit the retired racehorses of Old Friends.  All proceeds from the sale of the hats go to Old Friends.

The second hat up for bid in our 2020 Hats Off to the Horses auction series for Old Friends honors Watchem Smokey, the Oklahoma-bred son of another Old Friends retiree, Alphabet Soup.

Starting out as a claimer, Smokey went on to become a graded stakes winner with Bobby Frankel as his trainer in a total of 50 starts under such riders as Cecil Borel and Julie Krone. On October 2009, Smokey was injured in what would be his final race at Oklahoma’s Remington Park. Thanks to the efforts of the Oklahoma Thoroughbred Retirement Program, Watchem Smokey recovered from his injury and Michael Blowen brought the bay gelding home in March 2010 to Old Friends at Cabin Creek, NY, the division named for Bobby Frankel, the trainer who had first believed in him.


A special thank you to Connie Bush of Tiger Eye Photography for her beautiful images of Watchem Smokey, and to Miss Connecticut USA 2019 and Gulfstream Park racing analyst, Acacia Courtney, for being an outstanding model for this hat.

When I asked JoAnn Pepper her impression of Watchem Smokey she responded, “Smokey is a ‘soft spoken’ horse. He seems to be my most intelligent guy here. He had a life threatening injury and seems to take good care of himself and has never had a problem. He is in with Cool’n Collective, who is one of our more ‘goofy’ horses, Smokey is very patient with him and never starts the trouble. He’s a beautiful horse, just makes you want to look into his eyes and stay with him a while. I love him with all my heart and am thankful he is here!!!”

Connie Bush who photographs the horses of Old Friends of Cabin Creek told me that Smokey “has always been calm and sweet. He loves his peppermints and greets everyone who visits him in his paddock, especially when they have treats. He’s good with kids.”

Connie continued, “Smokey lives with Cool’n Collective in a kind of love and hate relationship. They get very jealous of each other when attention and treats are around. Sometime Smokey starts trouble and sometimes Cool. Other than an occasional nippy play fight with Cool, Smokey’s a really good boy.”

A very special one-of-a-kind hat was needed to honor this beloved new retiree of Old Friends. To honor this new Old Friends retiree, the distinctive red, white and blue racing silks of owner Edmund Gann racing stable provided the primary color inspiration for the trimmings of this stunning Derby hat and are the recurring theme throughout the design.

To learn more about Watchem Smokey’s life I went online and watched videos of his life on the track, read articles about his career as a racehorse…

Next, a sketch of the hat was made, fabrics were chosen and the creative process was underway!

I needed a hat design that would showcase Smokey’s dark dark bay coat and use the Gann Stables silks colors as a recurring theme throughout the design.

A large hat foundation was created using a base layer of white dupioni silk in a wide brim style, and a red dupioni silk underbrim creates a bold, elegant effect when the wearer’s face is upturned.

To showcase Gann’s stable colors, a large red rose curl was created with alternating layers of red dupioni silk and red silk organza to adorn the front of the hat.

A black pebble button provided the finishing accent.

Bold blue silk organza leaves were fashioned to frame the rose curl centerpiece.

For a final element in the floral centerpiece, seven chocolate silk organza “feathers” topstitched with black thread were added to reflect Watchem Smokey’s bay coloring.

A chocolate satin sash lined with blue silk organza encircles the crown of the hat…

… and swirling layers of alternating chocolate brown and red tulle, encircle the crown.

For a final trim element, a single black pebble button adorns the sash in the back.

The lining for the “Watchem Smokey” hat was created from a bold red satin to coordinate with the rose floral trim.

As you can see, the hat is stunning from every angle and measures approximately 22 inches, end to end!

As a physical remembrance of Watchem Smokey, several strands of his tail hair were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Watchem Smokey not only in spirit but in substance as well.

The hat was completed in early October, and was then shipped to Old Friends at Cabin Creek for the grand photo shoot with our model, Acacia Courtney!

And from all that I heard, everyone had a terrific time!

Special thanks to Miss Connecticut USA 2019 and Gulfstream Park racing analyst, Acacia Courtney, for helping us this month with our “Hats Off to the Horses” fundraiser.

Thanks also to Connie Bush of Tiger Eye Photography for her stunning images of Acacia and Watchem Smokey.

The “Watchem Smokey” auction hat is now up for bid on EBay and all the proceeds go to the retired racehorses of Old Friends. Bidding ends February 11th at 8 PM EST.

Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Watchem Smokey” chapeau and the amazing horse who inspired it.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

To learn more about the life, career and retirement of Watchem Smokey, please visit the Watchem Smokey horse webpage.

For more information about the “Watchem Smokey” Chapeau please visit the Watchem Smokey hat webpage.

Finally, we’d like to send a great big thank you to all of the “Friends of Old Friends” who are participating and sharing the word about “Hats Off to the Horses” this season through a very special social media campaign. Click on the poster below to learn more this effort that we introduced last season.

Thank you for visiting Hats and Horses, and for supporting our “Hats Off to the Horses” fundraiser this year!


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