A Derby Chapeau for This Hard Land of Old Friends at Cabin Creek

For the thirteenth 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 first hat up for bid in our 2022 “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series for Old Friends honors This Hard Land aka “Frankie”.

The “This Hard Land” Chapeau for Old Friends
Acacia Courtney with “Frankie” of Old Friends at Cabin Creek

A tall, handsome New York bred gelding owned by Lake Star Stable, Frankie got both his racing name and nickname from a Bruce Springsteen song. With a modest career on the track that included three ungraded stakes races, Frankie was retired to Old Friends at Cabin Creek in March of 2016.


The “This Hard Land” hat auction marks the seventh time we are presenting a hat created to honor one of the Thoroughbred retirees of Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division. Named for the late Hall of Fame trainer, Bobby Frankel, Old Friends of Cabin Creek is located in Greenfield, New York. The farm is home to 15 retired Thoroughbred racehorses and 1 American Quarter Horse under the care of JoAnn Pepper and her husband, Mark, along with the help of over a dozen devoted volunteers.

When I asked JoAnn Pepper her impression of the horse she responded, “Frankie is best friends with Slew, dark, 17 hands. Sweet as can be, a fan favorite on tours. Frankie can always be counted on to be sweet, a gentle soul who sure loves people and treats!”

Frankie (on right) with his paddock buddy, Slew’s Brew!

Indeed, a very special chapeau was needed to honor this beloved Thoroughbred athlete and to celebrate his retirement at Old Friends at Cabin Creek.

To learn more about Frankie”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!

What I needed was a wide-brimmed Derby hat design that would use a unique blend of colors, shades and textures to showcase Frankie’s dark bay coloring, sweet temperament and his Lake Star racing silk colors of black, red and white.

I created a foundation for the “Frankie” design out of red dupioni silk overlaid with a rich black lace in paisley pattern. Bold red dupioni silk was chosen for the underbrim to create a vibrant, colorful effect when the wearer’s face is upturned.

Next, I fashioned two red Derby roses out of alternating layers of red dupioni silk and silk organza for the trim centerpiece. The larger rose is for Frankie and the slightly smaller one is for his best buddy at Cabin Creek, Slew’s Brew.

This unique floral centerpiece was then framed with a lavish leaf medley created out of black silk organza of all different sizes.

Five medium-size feathers and three larger ones created out of shimmering chocolate organza were the final accents for Frankie’s trim centerpiece.

A triple layer black satin sash was created to encircle the crown of the hat…

And three large black pebble buttons were handstitched to adorn the sash in the back.

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

As you can see, the hat is stunning from every angle and measures approximately 20 inches, end to end!

As a physical remembrance of This Hard Land, 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 Frankie not only in spirit but in substance as well.

Frankie (on right) with his buddy, Slew’s Brew

The hat was completed in early November, and was then shipped to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with our featured 2022 model, Acacia Courtney!

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

Frankie meeting Acacia Courtney, his partner during the photo shoot at Old Friends.
Director of Old Friends at Cabin Creek, JoAnn Pepper giving Frankie his first look at the hat created to honor him.
Old Friends volunteers, Barb Neiman and Rachel Gerikhere presenting Frankie with his one-of-a-kind Derby hat!

Special thanks to Acacia Courtney, Gulfstream Park and New York Racing Association paddock reporter and the host of the America’s Day at the Races shows on FOX Sports for helping us this month with our “Hats Off to the Horses” fundraiser.

Acacia with Frankie at Old Friends at Cabin Creek

Thanks also to Connie Bush of Tiger Eye Photography for her stunning images of Acacia and “Frankie”.

Acacia and Frankie enjoying some playful moments during the photo shoot at Old Friends!

The “This Hard Land” auction hat is now up for bid at this eBay link. All of the proceeds go to the retired racehorses of Old Friends. Bidding ends January 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Frankie, the horse, please visit the This Hard Land webpage.

For more information about the “This Hard Land” Chapeau please visit the This Hard Land hat webpage.


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