The Crafting of the “Little Mike” Chapeau for Old Friends

For the eighth consecutive year, Old Friends and MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® are teaming up for our “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” hat auction series that benefits the retired racehorses of Dream Chase Farm.

This month we are featuring the “Little Mike” chapeau. This one-of-a-kind couture Derby hat created by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® honors 2012 Breeders Cup Turf and Arlington Million winner, Little Mike, who retired to Old Friends in 2016.

littlemike-hat-a-web-med
littlemike-equisportphotos-3crop-web-med Jockey Chris Landeros and his wife Shelby modeling the “Little Mike” hat at Old Friends.[/caption]

Named after owner Carlo Vaccarezza’s son, Little Mike was sired by Spanish Steps out of the mare Hay June whom Vaccarezza had rescued from the kill pen. To learn more about this great Florida-bred gelding who was bred by  Carlo Vaccarezza, owned by his wife Priscilla and trained for most of his career by Dale Romans, please visit the Little Mike webpage.

littlemike-laurabattles-10-framed-web-medWhen I asked Beth Shannon, volunteer at Old Friends, her impression of Little Mike she responded, “Little Mike is also an exceptionally kind horse. It took him all of fifteen minutes to figure out exactly what tours were all about. He gets along as easily with his new paddock mate Interwin as he does with people. His color isn’t flashy. He’s just a medium bay horse. But he’s got the look of the athlete he is. Of course, he was by far the best longer distance turf male in America in 2012, the year he won the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf.”

littlemike-laurabattles-1-framed-web-medAnd she added, “ The only thing Little Mike isn’t, is little. He’s good sized and nicely proportioned. What’s not to love about such a sweet horse?”

littlemike-laurabattles-8-framed-web-medClearly, a very special hat was needed to honor this new retiree of Old Friends. The resulting hat design showcases Little Mike’s stunning bay coat, his familiar racing silk colors of black with orange stripes, and his kind spirit and athleticism.

To begin the design process I went online and watched videos of Little Mike’s wins on the track, and soon I had the background information that I needed.

littlemike-hat-process1-web-medNext, a sketch of the hat was made, fabrics were chosen and the creative process was underway!

littlemike-hat-process2-web-medThe foundation of the “Little Mike” hat was fashioned as a flat oval brim design created out of black dupioni silk.

littlemike-hat-f-web-medThe edge of the brim was trimmed with a unique ruffled brim edge which allows light to pass through the sheer fabric. Created out of a single layer of black silk organza, the resulting look is one of smooth elegance befitting this great Thoroughbred athlete.

littlemike-hat-process3-web-medAs a finishing touch, a fancy braiding of warm mocha chocolate was top stitched where the silk and organza layers meet the brim edge.

littlemike-hat-process4-web-medCarlo Vaccarezza’s distinctive black with orange stripe racing silks provided the basic color palette for the trimmings of this stunning Derby hat.

The centerpiece is comprised of a single medium rose curl created in swirling layers of coral orange shantung and organza. A shimmering espresso button accents the center, a clear reflection of Little Mike’s soft brown eyes.

littlemike-hat-process5-web-medThe rose was beautifully framed with a medley of leaves fashioned out of black silk organza.

littlemike-hat-process6-web-medMocha brown hat veiling was set behind the rose curl and leaves to offer a contrasting flourish with a touch of wispy elegance.

Ten slender black, chocolate brown and chocolate brown silk organza “feathers” were then gracefully shaped to help balance the trim design.

littlemike-hat-process7-web-medA layered sash, created out of black satin lined with coral orange shantung, was created to encircle the crown of the hat.

littlemike-hat-process8-web-medFor the finishing touch, a large black pebble button was hand stitched to the back of the hat.

littlemike-hat-process9-web-medFinally, the lining was created from a swirling black brocade to coordinate with the trims.

littlemike-hat-process10-web-medThe finished “Little Mike” hat design measures over 24 inches across inclusive of the ruffled organza brim layer.

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

littlemike-hat-process12-blogThe purpose of this amazing millinery delight is to honor the life of Little Mike and all of the horses who, thanks to the generosity of those who support their aftercare, now graze in the warm sunshine of Dream Chase Farm for the rest of their lives.

littlemike-laurabattles-11-framed-medSoon the hat was on its way to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with our models. And from all that I have heard,  they had one heck of a good time!

littlemike-equisportphotos-2crop-web-medFor 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 jockey Chris Landeros and his lovely wife, Shelby, who were splendid models for the “Little Mike” chapeau 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 Shelby matched the chapeau beautifully. Our thanks to all of you!

The “Little Mike” auction hat is now up for bid on EBay and bidding ends February 11th at 8 PM EST.

Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Little Mike” chapeau and the horse who inspired it. For more information about the “Little Mike” Chapeau please visit the Little Mike hat webpage. To read more about Little Mike, the horse, please visit the Little Mike webpage.

 

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We’d also like to mention an exciting new social media campaign that we are introducing for Season 8 called, “Friends of Old Friends”.

A number of Thoroughbred horse farms and racing organizations across the country were invited to join in the effort by helping us share the Hats Off auction publicity through their own social media channels. We hope that these wonderful Friends of Old Friends will enable us to expand the audience for “Hats Off to the Horses” as well as to generate greater concern for all horses everywhere.

The following is our “Friends of Old Friends” poster for sharing our second auction hat, inspired by  Little Mike.

We extend a big thank you to all of the Friends of Old Friends that are participating and sharing the word about Hats Off to the Horses!

oldfriends-friendsofoldfriends-february2017-littlemikeposter2-web-medThank you for visiting Hats and Horses, and here’s to our best auction season yet!

Sally

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“Hats Off to the Horses” Welcomes Shelby and Chris Landeros!

“Hats Off to the Horses”, the annual Derby hat fundraiser that benefits the retired racehorses of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement in KY has kicked off Season 8 with its second hat up for bid to honor Florida bred 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf and Arlington Million winner, Little Mike!

littlemike-equisportphotos-3crop-web-med We are delighted this season to have jockey Chris Landeros and his wife Shelby joining our “Hats Off” team to model hats for us.

Shelby recently modeled the “Little Mike” chapeau during a very special photo session for the fundraiser at Old Friends in KY.

littlemike-equisportphotos-3-crop
Photo of Shelby Landeros by EquiSport Photos

Shelby’s husband, Chris Landeros, was born July 12, 1988. The son of CA trainer, Manuel Landeros, Chris is one of horse racing’s up and coming riders who began his riding career at Turf Paradise in Arizona. In 2015 Chris won the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3) and Aristides (G3), both aboard Alsvid. In 2016 he had a North American career earning of over $24.5 million and 1,232 wins through September 29th.

Shelby Landeros is the daughter of winning Kentucky based trainer, Ian Wilkes who trained Fort Larned in the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Classic.

I recently got the chance to interview Shelby and Chris following their photo shoot at Old Friends for the “Little Mike” chapeau.

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Sally: Shelby and Chris, our next hat up on the block for the February auction is the “Little Mike” chapeau which was one of the hats that you modeled at Old Friends Had either of you ever met Little Mike before?

Chris: No I hadn’t met him before the photo shoot.

Shelby: I had never met him, but I was at Santa Anita the year he won the Breeders’ Cup Turf. It was the same year my dad’s horse Fort Larned won the Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Sally: How did the photo shoot go?

Chris: Great! I loved him. I thought he looked great. He was a lot of fun to be around.

littlemike-laurabattles-8-framed-web-medShelby: It was good! He was a little too feisty for me so we had to take photos on the other side of the fence.

littlemike-equisportphotos-1crop-web-medSally: Was this your first visit to Old Friends, and did you get a chance to meet any of the other retired racehorses while you were there?

Shelby: I had taken Chris one time before, and that was my third trip to Old Friends. We also met Danthebluegrassman.

Sally: Shelby and Chris, for those who are meeting you two here for the first time, where were each of you born and where did you grow up?

Chris: I was born in San Mateo, CA and grew up on the backside of Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields. I eventually moved to Arizona and started riding at Turf Paradise.

Shelby: I was born in Arlington Heights, IL but grew up for the most part in Louisville, KY. My parents are from Australia so we moved back there from 1990-1993 and then came back to the States.

shelby-and-chris-landeros-3-web-med
Shelby and Chris with Shelby’s dad Ian Wilkes, her mom Tracey and her brother Brodie

Sally: For each of you, what is your earliest memory of a horse?

Chris: I used to ride the ponies in the morning at the track with my dad.

Shelby: I’m not sure it’s my earliest memory, but I remember riding to and from the track in the mornings with my mom and dad on our old stable pony, Yukoner.

Sally: Did you both ride when you were little?

Chris: I rode at my mom’s ranch. She used to rehab racehorses.

Shelby: I didn’t ride seriously, but my best friend rode all the time and we would go out for trail rides. That’s the extent of my riding.

Sally: Chris, I read that you grew up in San Mateo, CA and that your father Manuel Landeros, trained horses in CA, and also that your grandparents Frank and Lynn Mitchell owned racehorses.

shelby-chris-landeros-10-web-med
Chris with his brother Stephen, and dad Manuel

Sally: It sounds like horse racing runs in your blood. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a jockey?

Chris: I knew I wanted to be a jockey at a very young age. I thought it was the coolest job.

shelby-chris-landeros-2Sally: Was there anyone in particular who inspired or helped you along the way in your career?

Chris: Garret Gomez. He was my idol and a very close friend. I still watch YouTube videos of his races to learn from him.

Sally: Given your family’s history, can you ever imagine training racehorses yourself?

Chris: Not right now, but you never know what the future holds. Right now I’m only worried about riding.

shelby-chris-landeros-5-web-medSally: I understand that you started riding at Turf Paradise (AZ) when you were just 17 and traveled between Arizona and California for a number of years until you started racing in Texas and Oklahoma. Were there any races in particular that were especially memorable to you?

Chris: Winning my first Grade III race, the John B. Connally Turf Cup at Sam Houston.

Sally: What goals or dreams do you have for the future?

Chris: I want to win a Breeders’ Cup race, and everyone’s dream is the Kentucky Derby.

shelby-and-chris-landeros-2-web-med
Chris and Shelby with 2015 Triple Crown winner, American Pharoah.

Sally: Chris, you have ridden some incredibly talented racehorses to victory over the years. Do you have any favorites?

Chris: There’s been many special ones, but Alsvid is one that stands out.

shelby-and-chris-landeros-10-web-med
Chris and a tiny fan he let wear his helmet after a stakes win on the filly Streamline

Sally: Being a jockey means early mornings and a lot of travel; what would be the perfect day for you?

Chris: My perfect day would be golfing, some blackjack, and then dinner with my wife.

shelby-chris-landeros-skipdickstein-wedding-2-web-med
Wedding photo by Skip Dickstein

Sally: Shelby, you’ve had a long history with horses as well. Your dad, Ian Wilkes, is a trainer and it sounds like you’ve spent pretty much your whole life around horses and the track.  Were you ever involved in your dad’s training work?

Shelby: I hot walked for him for a little bit, but that’s about it.

Sally: Do you own any horses?

Shelby: No, not yet 🙂

Sally: Shelby, do you ride now?

Shelby: Not really. I’m the only one in the family who doesn’t ride.

Sally: Do you and Chris have any pets?

Shelby: We have a zoo! We have an English bulldog, a Great Dane, and two cats.

shelby-chris-landeros-3-web-med

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Sally: I know you and Chris are very busy; what does the perfect day look like to you?

Shelby: I think my perfect day would just be relaxing at home with Chris.

Sally: Do you have any special dreams for the future, where you’d like to live, etc?

Shelby: I’d love to start a family soon! I like Louisville so I hope we can stay here for awhile.

Sally: Shelby and Chris, congratulations on your recent wedding celebration!

shelby-chris-landeros-skipdickstein-wedding-1-web-med
Chris and Shelby’s wedding. Photo by Skip Dickstein

Sally: How did the two of you meet?

Chris: I rode a couple times for her dad in Indiana and decided to message her on Facebook.

shelby-and-chris-landeros-11-coadyphotog-web-med
Chris winning on War Stroll trained by Shelby’s dad, Ian Wilkes. Photo courtesy of Coady Photography.

Shelby: We met in person a few months later, and the rest is history!

Sally: I understand you are living in Kentucky now. Do you both travel when Chris has racing meets, and how does life in the Bluegrass State compare to California?

Shelby: We’re mainly in Kentucky, but I move to Arkansas with him in the winters. Sometimes if he travels for a big race I’ll go out of town.

Chris: They’re two different places. I prefer the Bluegrass State. I hope to raise my family here one day.

Sally: Shelby and Chris, after seeing Matt’s images from the big photo shoot at Old Friends, I have to tell you that you both look GREAT in hats!
Are you “hat people”?

Chris: I wear mostly baseball caps. Nothing fancy.

Shelby: I love fascinators! They’re easier to wear in big crowds.

shelby-chris-landeros-4-web-med
Shelby and Chris Landeros at Breeders’ Cup 2015 at Keeneland.

Sally: If so, where is your favorite place to wear a hat?

Shelby: Derby! 🙂

Sally: Shelby and Chris, people are going to be inspired by your support of Old Friends.

Sally: Why do you think it is important for us to support these retired Thoroughbred athletes, and do you have any suggestions for how people can get involved and participate in helping the retired racehorses?

Chris: For me as a jockey I appreciate each and every one of them. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be doing what I love.

Shelby: Obviously not everyone is in a position to take in a retired racehorse so the best way to get involved is to donate, if you’re able to, to organizations that help retired thoroughbreds. Or volunteer if possible helping care for the horses.

oldfriendstoursweb-med
Old Friends photo courtesy of EquiSport Photos

Sally: Shelby and Chris,  thanks again for helping us with our Eighth Annual “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series with the “Little Mike” chapeau. We are really fortunate to have you on board this year as part of our “Hats Off” team!

And to my readers, please enjoy this behind-the-scenes video from the “Little Mike” photo shoot with Chris and Shelby at Old Friends, a special treat from our friends Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos!

And thank you for visiting us today at Hats and Horses!

Sally

About the “Little Mike” Hat Auction:

The “Little Mike” auction hat is currently up for bid on EBay. Bidding ends Saturday, February 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Little Mike, the horse, please visit the Little Mike webpage. For more information about the “Little Mike” chapeau please visit the Little Mike hat webpage.

Note about Photography: All images that are shown here without credits have been provided with permission from the Landeros family.

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Hats Off to Little Mike of Old Friends!

The 2017 “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” for Old Friends is well underway with our second hat of the season, the “Little Mike”!

littlemike-equisportphotos-3crop-web-medIf you would like to bid on the “Little Mike” chapeau please place your bid at this link on EBay.

Bidding ends Saturday, February 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Little Mike, the horse, please visit the Little Mike webpage. For more information about the “Alphabet Soup” Chapeau please visit the Little Mike hat webpage.

Thank you for supporting Old Friends!

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“Friends of Old Friends” Support Old Friends 2017 Derby Hat Auction

Welcome to our February “Hats Off to the Horses” auction for 2017 that honors 2012 Breeders Cup Turf and Arlington Million winner, Little Mike!

This season, MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® has reached out to some of the friends of Old Friends to ask them for their support in helping to spread the word about “Hats Off to the Horses” this year.

Invitations were sent to a number of Thoroughbred horse farms and racing organizations across the country to join us in this new social media campaign.

For all those who decided to join us as a “Friend of Old Friends” we have added their business logos to our auction publicity which will showcase their support. In turn, during each of our four “Hats Off” auction months (January through April) all of the “Friends” will join with us in sharing the auction through their own social media channels.

We are hoping that this new social media participation will expand our audience for “Hats Off to the Horses” as well as generate greater concern for all horses everywhere.

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Please join me in thanking the following organizations that have joined us whom we are thrilled to welcome as “Friends of Old Friends”!

oldfriends-friendsofoldfriends-february2017-littlemikeposter2-web-medThank you “Friends of Old Friends”, one and ALL!

Bidding is now underway on EBay for our second auction hat of the season, the “Little Mike” chapeau. Click HERE to bid, and thank you for your support for Old Friends!

Sally

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The Alphabet Soup Chapeau – A Recipe of Love for a Sweet Old Friend

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

This year our unique Derby hat fundraiser begins on January 1st and continues all the way to the Derby. An annual event, it  features one-of-a-kind couture Derby hats created by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® to benefit the retired racehorses of Old Friends.

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-1-web-medWe are delighted to introduce a new group of models for our “Hats Off to the Horses” chapeaux this season! Please welcome Jon, Krystal and Aubrey Court who helped modeling the “Alphabet Soup” chapeau for this first auction that started January 1st.

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-2crop-web-medThe first hat up for bid in our auction series honors Pennsylvania-bred Alphabet Soup, winner of the 1996 Breeders’ Cup with a stunning victory over the great racehorse, Cigar. To learn more about this champion, please visit the Alphabet Soup webpage.

alphabetsoup-rickcapone-1-framed-medWhen I asked Beth Shannon, volunteer at Old Friends, her impression of Alphabet Soup, she responded, “Oh, I can’t say too much about the kindness, the beauty, the personality of our wonderful Soup! In the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic he and Louis Quatorze caught and passed the horse who’d been on the lead, Cigar was coming up like a cannonball, and Alphabet Soup gave it all he had, pushing his nose out on front of them all. It was one of the most exciting Classic finishes in Breeders’ Cup history!”

alphabetsoup-laurabattles-17-framed-medAnd she added, “He’s not only kind, he’s smart and fun to be around. His other striking quality, besides his spirit, is his athleticism. He keeps himself fit–he’s ruggedly gorgeous–and he glories in his speed at 17 as he did at 3.”

alphabetsoup-laurabattles-20-framed-medRight from the start I could see that a dramatic hat design was required for to reflect Alphabet Soup’s stunning pearl-white coat, his familiar racing silk colors of orange-red and sage green, and his proud spirit and athleticism.

As always, I went online and watched videos of Alphabet Soup’s wins on the track, and before I knew it I had the background information that I needed.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-1-blogNext, a sketch of the hat was made, fabrics were chosen and the creative process was underway!

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-3-blogThe foundation of the “Alphabet Soup” hat was fashioned as a curved wide brim design created out of pearl-white dupioni silk.

alphabetsouphat-5-web-medA fancy grey braiding was hand stitched to the outer edge of the underbrim to reflect Alphabet Soup’s dark mane and tail when he was a young colt.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-10-blogYards of shimmering white and grey tulle were swirled together and layered around the crown, providing a bed for the roses that is wispy and elegant. It also reflects the color palette of Alphabet Soup’s changing coat over the years.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-10b-tulle-blogalphabetsoup-hatcreation-2-blogAnd the Alphabet Soup hat is covered in Derby ROSES!

alphabetsouphat-2-web-medInspired by the traditional Derby rose…

Each rose cluster, made up of three individual roses, was created in alternating layers of red China silk and silk organza.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-11-blogThe rose clusters were then framed with a medley of leaves fashioned out of tarragon green organza and sage crinkle organza, accented with sage green French ribbons.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-14-blogalphabetsoup-hatcreation-15-blogA sash, created out of deep olive green taffeta lined with tomato red taffeta, encircles the crown of the hat.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-16-blogOne more rose-and-leaves cluster adorns the back of the hat.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-12-blogAnd for the finishing touch, a large pewter pebble button adorns the back seam.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-17-blogThe “Alphabet Soup” hat is stunning from every angle with no details left untouched. The lining was created from a silver roses brocade to coordinate with the trims.

alphabetsouphat-18-web-medThe finished “Alphabet Soup” hat design measures over 23 inches across inclusive of the tulle.

alphabetsouphat-15-web-medAs a physical remembrance of Alphabet Soup, 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 Alphabet Soup not only in spirit but in substance as well.

alphabetsoup-hatcreation-21-horse-b-blogThe purpose of this amazing millinery delight is to honor the life of Alphabet Soup and all of the horses who, thanks to the generosity of those who support their aftercare, now graze in the warm sunshine of Dream Chase Farm for the rest of their lives.

alphabetsoup-laurabattles-17-framed-medSoon the hat was on its way to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with our models. And from all that I have heard,  they had one heck of a good time!

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-2crop-web-medFor 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 Krystal, Jon and Aubrey Court who were splendid models for the Alphabet Soup chapeau 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 Krystal matched the chapeau beautifully. Our thanks to all of you!

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-3-web-medThe “Alphabet Soup” auction hat is now up for bid on EBay and bidding ends January 11th at 8 PM EST.

Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Alphabet Soup” chapeau and the horse who inspired it. For more information about the “Alphabet Soup” Chapeau please visit the Alphabet Soup hat webpage.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We’d also like to mention an exciting new social media campaign that we are introducing for Season 8 called, “Friends of Old Friends”.

A number of Thoroughbred horse farms and racing organizations across the country were invited to join in the effort by helping us share the Hats Off auction publicity through their own social media channels. We hope that these wonderful Friends of Old Friends will enable us to expand the audience for “Hats Off to the Horses” as well as to generate greater concern for all horses everywhere.

The following is our “Friends of Old Friends” poster for sharing our first auction hat, inspired by the 1996 Breeders’ Cup winner, Alphabet Soup.

We extend a big thank you to all of the Friends of Old Friends that are participating and sharing the word about Hats Off to the Horses!

oldfriends-hatsoff-fof-2048x1499-200res-alphabetsoup-horizontal-final2-web-medThank you for visiting Hats and Horses, and here’s to our best auction season yet!

Sally

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“Hats Off to the Horses” Welcomes Jon, Krystal and Aubrey Court!

“Hats Off to the Horses” has kicked off the New Year in style with its first hat up for bid that honors Pennsylvania-bred 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Alphabet Soup!

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-3-web-med
Jon, Krystal and Aubrey Court with Alphabet Soup at Old Friends
alphabetsouphat-15-web-med
The “Alphabet Soup” Chapeau

We’re celebrating our eighth consecutive year of “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby”, an annual Derby hat fundraiser that benefits the retired racehorses of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement in KY, and and we are delighted this season to have jockey Jon Court, his wife Krystal and their daughter Aubrey joining our “Hats Off” team to model hats for us!

courts-jonandkrystal-kiss-2016-1
Jon and Krystal Court

This month Krystal modeled the spectacular “Alphabet Soup” chapeau that you can read about by visiting the Alphabet Soup hat webpage.

Krystal’s husband, Jon, is one of horse racing’s leading riders.

courts-jon-archarcharch-derby137arch4-blog
Jon Court with 2011 Derby mount, Archarcharch

Born in Gainesville, Florida, November 23, 1960, Jon began his riding career in 1980 at Centennial Park in Colorado and had his first win at the age of 19 aboard a horse named Nevada’s Hope. After a dozen years riding in Louisiana, Jon moved on to the Indiana and Kentucky racing circuits and was dominant at Hoosier Park between 1996 to 1998 with leading rider honors at Oaklawn in 2000. Jon’s achievements have included 2 Lone Star Derby victories, a 2003 Japan Cup Dirt win aboard Fleetstreet Dancer, back-to-back Arkansas Derby wins with Line of David and Archarcharch, a feature in the first season of Animal Plant’s reality documentary, Jockeys, and a Derby mount in the 2011 Run for the Roses riding Archarcharch for his father-in-law, Jinks Fires.

courts-jon-archarcharch-withdad
Jon Court with his 2011 Kentucky Derby mount, Archarcharch, and trainer/father-in-law, Jinks Fires

Court has also served as secretary of the Jockeys’ Guild twice and earned the 2007 George Woolf Award. On September 17, 2016 Jon suffered a rib and vertebrae injury at Churchill Downs when he was just 6 wins short of 4,000 career wins. Yet he was back in the saddle by October and on December 3rd at the age of 56 claimed his 4,000th win at Turfway Park aboard the 3-year-old Florida-bred filly, City Without Pity.

courts-jon-4000win-citywithoutpity-blog
Photo by Coady Photography

Jon and Krystal were married in Arkansas and live in Shelbyville, Kentucky with their family. Krystal, the daughter of Oaklawn-based trainer Jinks Fires, has spent her entire life around horses and the race track.

Jon and Krystal’s 13-year-old daughter Aubrey joined us for the photo shoot, modeling a custom made hair ornament created to match the “Alphabet Soup” chapeau.

I recently got the chance to interview all three of them following their photo shoot at Old Friends.

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Jon, Krystal and Aubrey, welcome to my Hats and Horses blog!

We are thrilled to have you join our “Hats Off” team for our 8th straight year with the “Hats Off to the Horses” Derby hat auction fundraiser for the retired racehorses of Old Friends. I’m so glad I got the chance to catch up with you and ask you a few questions for this Q&A!

Sally: Jon and Krystal, for those who are meeting you two here for the first time, where were each of you born and where did you grow up?

Jon: I was born in Gainesville, FL, and I grew up on a farm in Seminole County, FL.

Krystal: I was born in Memphis, TN, because that was the closest hospital to Rivervale, Arkansas where my family lives.

Sally: For each of you, what is your earliest memory of a horse?

Jon: I watched a race, most likely the Kentucky Derby, when I was probably 3 or 4 years old on television and was hooked.

Krystal: My family has been in the racing business all my life, so I was on a horse as soon as I could sit up and hold on.

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Krystal Court and Commanding Arch

Sally: Did you both ride when you were little?

Jon: I started at 10 to ride by myself without an adult’s help.

Krystal: I always rode my Dad’s pony around the barn and would ride around my Grandparent’s farm in the summer.

Sally: Jon, when did you first realize that you wanted to be a jockey?

Jon: I always said I would be a jockey from an early age after watching a horse race.

Sally: Was there anyone who especially inspired or helped you along the way?

Jon: I had a variety of people who inspired me along the way.

Sally: I understand that you did a lot of your early riding in Louisiana. Later,  you won the Arkansas Derby with Line of David and then Archarcharch, and then got your first Derby mount in 2011 aboard Archarcharch.

Jon: I started riding in 1980 at Centennial race track in Littleton, Colorado, then went on to Louisiana.

Sally: You have ridden some incredibly talented racehorses to victory over the years. Do you have any special favorites?

Jon: Archarcharch, Wise Dan, Leroidesanimaux, and Fleetstreet Dancer.

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Jon Court winning the 2011 Arkansas Derby with Archarcharch

Sally: Have there been any races in particular that were especially memorable?

Jon: The Japan Cup Dirt in 2003 on Fleetstreet Dancer for the Leathermans was a memorable experience.

Sally: What goals or dreams do you have as a jockey for the future?

Jon: Jockeys always chase the Derby dream and the Triple Crown series along with the Breeders’ Cup and so on.

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Jon Court shown exercising 2011 Derby mount, Archarcharch

Sally: Is training racehorses something you could ever imagine yourself doing?

Jon: Yes, I could see myself training one day.

Sally: Being a jockey means early mornings and a lot of travel. What would be the perfect day to you?

Jon: Sleeping in and having breakfast with my girls.

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Jon Court with daughter, Aubrey

Sally: Krystal, you’ve had a long history with horses as well. Your dad, Jinks Fires, is an accomplished trainer and it sounds like you’ve spent pretty much your whole life around horses and the track. Were you ever involved in your dad’s training work?

Krystal: Not really, I have walked a lot of horses for him, after they came back from the track.

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Krystal Court’s Dad, trainer Jinks Fires, at Churchill Downs on Derby Day 2016 racing one of his horses

Sally: I read somewhere that you worked as a concierge in the suites for Churchill Downs; do you still work there?

Krystal: I work as the Jockey Club Suites Concierge when Churchill Downs is racing.

Sally: Krystal, you and Jon sound super busy with careers and family, what is your idea of the perfect day?

Krystal: My ideal of a perfect day is any day that I get to laugh and spend time with my family.

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Jinks Fires with Krystal’s daughter, Aubrey, and niece, Josey

Sally: You two were married in Hot Springs, Arkansas. What year was that?

Krystal: 1998

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Jon and Krystal Court at at a friend’s wedding reception in 2015

Sally: How did the two of you meet?

Krystal: At my father’s barn at Oaklawn Park, while I was walking a horse for my dad, in 1996.

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Jon and Krystal Court at the 2013 Breeders’ Cup

Sally: Where are you living now?

J&K: Shelbyville, Kentucky.

Sally: How many kids do you have besides Aubrey who looked so lovely modeling with you at Old Friends?

Krystal: Jon has 3 older children and my niece lives with us now. Josey is 14, so her and Aubrey are more like sisters then cousins.

courts-aubreyjoseyonbucky2Sally: Do you own any horses? Do you have other pets?

J&K: We have owned a couple of race horses, but none now. We have a sweet, female miniature Schnauzer named Pepper.

Sally: Our first hat up on the block for the January auction is the “Alphabet Soup” chapeau which is one of the hats that you modeled at Old Friends. Had either of you ever met Alphabet Soup before the photo shoot? How did the photo shoot go?… It looked like a lot of fun!

Jon: Never met Alphabet Soup. However, I was aware of him and was thoroughly impressed with him after the photo shoot.

alphabetsoup-rickcapone-1-framed-medSally: Aubrey, I understand that the October 17th photo shoot date was your 13th birthday as well. What did you think of Alphabet Soup?

Aubrey: It was really fun to do the photo shoot on my birthday and Alphabet Soup is a beautiful horse.

Sally: Did you get a chance to meet Little Silver Charm or any of the other horses while you were there at Dream Chase farm?

Aubrey: Unfortunately, not.

Sally: Do you ride?

Aubrey: Yes, almost every chance I get, but not racehorses.

Sally: How do you like being a hat model?

Aubrey: I loved it!

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-3-crop-blogSally: You all look GREAT in hats! Do you think of yourselves as “hat people”? Where is your favorite place to wear a hat (other than on a horse wearing a racing helmet)?

Jon: I occasionally wear a hat, more during the winter.

Krystal: I love wearing hats, especially to big races, during the colder months and to protect my face in the summer.

Aubrey: I consider myself a hat person most times, and my favorite place to wear a hat is in public!

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Krystal and Aubrey, 2016 Derby

Sally: I am sure that people are going to be inspired by your support of Old Friends. Why do you think it’s important for us to support these retired Thoroughbred athletes, and do you have any suggestions for how people can get involved and participate in helping the retired racehorses?

Jon and Krystal: These beautiful equine athletes have given there all for us and deserve a wonderful retirement. We have found that if people know there is a need, they will help as much as possible. So you only need to spread the word and people’s natural generosity will do the rest. We believe they do an excellent job at Old Friends and we really appreciate all their efforts.

Sally: Krystal, Jon and Aubrey, thanks again for helping us with our Eighth Annual “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series with the “Alphabet Soup” chapeau. We are really fortunate to have you on board this year as part of our “Hats Off” team!

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-2crop-web-medAnd to my readers, please enjoy this “behind-the-scenes” video from the “Alphabet Soup” photo shoot with Jon, Krystal and Aubrey Court at Old Friends, a special treat from our friends Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos!

Happy New Year everybody!

Sally

About the auction:

The “Alphabet Soup” auction hat is currently up for bid on EBay. Bidding ends Wednesday, January 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Alphabet Soup, the horse, please visit the Alphabet Soup webpage. For more information about the “Alphabet Soup” Chapeau please visit the Alphabet Soup hat webpage.

Note about Photography: All images that are shown here without credits have been provided with permission from the Court family.

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Hats Off to Alphabet Soup of Old Friends!

The 2017 “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” for Old Friends is now underway with our first hat of the season, the “Alphabet Soup”!

alphabetsoup-equisportphotos-3-web-medIf you would like to bid on the “Alphabet Soup” chapeau please place your bid at this link on EBay.

Bidding ends Wednesday, January 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Alphabet Soup, the horse, please visit the AlphabetSoupwebpage. For more information about the “Alphabet Soup” Chapeau please visit the Alphabet Soup hat webpage.

Thank you for supporting Old Friends!

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