A Derby Chapeau for Birdstone of Old Friends

For the twelfth 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 fourth and final hat up for bid in our 2021 Hats Off to the Horses auction series for Old Friends honors Birdstone, the Marylou Whitney Kentucky-bred son of Grindstone whose stunning Belmont win ended Smarty Jones’s bid for the 2004 Triple Crown.


Trained by Nick Zito, Birdstone’s G1 Champagne Stakes and Travers Stakes victories further proved the kind of champion he truly was. A chip fracture in his left front ankle ended Birdstone’s racing career and launched a memorable stud career at Gainesway Farm, KY (2005 to 2020) with notably two classic winners in his first crop: Mine That Bird & Summer Bird. Birdstone was retired to Old Friends on August 28, 2020.

Following the news of Birdstone’s retirement to Old Friends, an August 28, 2020 Bloodhorse article quoted President and Founder of Old Friends, Michael Blowen as saying, “He’s a living tribute to Marylou Whitney, and we plan to carry on her great contributions to the aftercare of both humans and horses. We’re extremely grateful to John for trusting us to care for his tremendous stakes winner. Birdstone had a great life at Gainesway, and we plan to continue that tradition at Old Friends.”

Afleet Accompli arrives at Old Friends.

Clearly, a very special one-of-a-kind hat was needed to honor this beloved new retiree of Old Friends.

To learn more about Birdstone’s life I went online and watched videos of his life on the track and 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!


The Eton blue and chocolate racing silks of the Whitney racing stable provided the palette for this stunning Derby hat and are the recurring theme throughout the design.

An extra wide hat foundation was created using an irridescent blue taffeta with chocolate thread to reflect the Whitney Stable’s Eton blue racing silk colors.

To celebrate Birdstone’s amazing home stretch charge to defeat favorite Smarty Jones in the 2004 Belmont, the third jewel of the Triple Crown, three delicate Marguerites were created out of chocolate satin rose curl centers…

…and greenish-blue organza petals top stitched with chocolate embroidery strands.

Two large Marguerite flowers adorn the front of the hat…

…and one slightly smaller Marguerite adorns the back.

Each individual floral centerpiece is framed with leaves created out of soft chocolate organza.

A chocolate taffeta sash lined with black silk organza encircles the crown of the hat…

A single large black pebble button adorns the sash in the back.

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

The hat is stunning from every angle and measures approximately 23 inches end to end including the overlaying tulle layers!

The lining for the “Birdstone” hat was created from chocolate satin to coordinate with the entire chapeau design.

As a physical remembrance of Birdstone, 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 Birdstone not only in spirit but in substance as well.

The hat was completed in early October, and was then shipped to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with our featured 2021 model, Acacia Courtney!

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

Acacia and Birdstone

Special thanks to Acacia Courtney, Gulfstream Park and New York Racing Association paddock reporter and host of the America’s Day at the Races for modeling the hat. And thank you also to Old Friends volunteer and photographer, Laura Battles for her stunning images!

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

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

For more information about the “Birdstone” Chapeau please visit the Birdstone 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 about this effort that we introduced several years ago.

Thank you to all the “Friends of Old Friends” supporting us in 2021!

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

Sally

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