The fifth hat up for bid in our “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series for Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement in Kentucky honors the Kentucky-bred multiple stakes-winning stallion and son of the great Seattle Slew, Williamstown.
Williamstown is perhaps best known in racing circles for having run one of the fastest miles in history in the 1993 Withers Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park. “Willie” retired to Old Friends in 2007 at the age of 17 having sired 15 stakes winners, including graded winner Vinemeister.
I had wanted to create a hat for Williamstown ever since I started doing this Derby hat auction fundraiser for Old Friends. Years ago I had seen a photo shoot of Willie done at Old Friends by Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos. Not only were the images stunning, but there was just something about this great black stallion that pulled me in and made me want to get to know him better…
When I asked Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends, his impression of Williamstown you could tell that he’d been starstruck, too. “I visited Williamstown many years ago at Saratoga when Pete Vestal trained him,” recalled Michael. “I didn’t dream that many years later, he’d be living with me. The great son of Seattle Slew lives right across from one of Secretariat’s greatest sons, Tinner’s Way.”
Old Friends volunteer, Beth Shannon, was once again my trusty muse as I tried to get to the heart of this great stallion. “Williamstown is quite flashy,” stated Beth, “with chrome on all four legs and a broad blaze that goes down to cover his whole muzzle. He’s also got a vivid, distinctive eye much like Seattle Slew’s other son, A. P. Indy – an eye with the white showing, like a human eye. Williamstown is full of dignity and surprises; self sufficient but surprisingly friendly to those who are willing to take the time to get to know him.”
My research for creating the hat continued with reviews of Williamstown’s victories, his pedigree and his racing connections. The creative pistons were firing as I sketched ideas for a hat that would showcase Willie’s black with white markings, his friendly personality and those fabulous Willmott racing silk colors of bright pastel yellow and deep plum purple.
I searched through stacks of fabric and found the perfect colors, one by one.
To capture Williamstown’s strong yet elegant physique, I decided to create a wide brim hat foundation out of black dupioni silk, giving it a round, sheer silk organza crown.
A unique black silk organza overlayer would lend added dimension, elegance and drama.Next, I found some black and white striped ribbon and fashioned a band to encircle the sheer crown of the hat and give it some structure as well as color and design.
I found a bright yellow taffeta and two shades of yellow organza and fashioned three medium size rose curls…
… and I found the perfect plum and purple organzas to create a variegated medley of leaves to frame each of the roses.
I adorned the front of the hat with my three rose and leaf clusters, placing them in sweeping cascade down along the brim.
For a final touch to the centerpiece, I created eight long, curvaceous “feathers” out of black and white silk organza which I set behind the rose curl centerpiece to frame the wearer’s face.
Finally, a black pebble button was hand stitched to the back of the hat as a stunning accent.
The finished “Williamstown” design measures approximately 22 inches across, inclusive of the “feathers”.
As a physical remembrance of Williamstown, several strands of the great stallion’s tail hairs were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Williamstown not only in spirit but in substance as well.
Following a photo shoot here in our MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® studio…
The “Williamstown” chapeau was off and running to Old Friends for the big photo shoot with Rosie and Joe!
For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Williamstown photo shoot at Old Friends, check out the video footage below so generously provided by EquiSport Photos.
We want to extend a big thank you to newly retired jockey Rosie Napravnik and her husband, trainer Joe Sharp who have been super models for our auction hats this season and to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos who worked their video/photographic magic once again. The dress that Bella Rose Clothing Boutique, Lexington, Kentucky furnished for Rosie matched the “Williamstown” hat beautifully. Our thanks to you all!
The “Williamstown” auction hat is up for bid staring February 1st at this Williamstown EBay link; bidding ends February 11th at 8 PM EST.
Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Williamstown” chapeau and the horse who inspired its creation.
Thunder Rumble passed this week at Old Friends at Cabin Creek at the age of 26. On January 6, Joann Pepper of Old Friends shared the sad news about the loss of this horse she so lovingly referred to as her “Black Stallion”.
With a broken heart I’m writing to tell you all that we lost Thunder Rumble today due to complications from colic. He was the most magnificent stallion I have ever met and am so thankful to have known him and loved him. He enjoyed every minute of his birthday party on Saturday, even had a Cabin Creek Travers race with Wills Way. I’m glad so many people came to see Thunder and all his friends, not knowing we would have to say goodbye so soon. He is buried here, in his favorite place, under his pines. Be free my friend, till we meet again.
Old Friends has asked for all who would like to do so to come to Cabin Creek today from 12-1 and share your stories of Thunder. I cannot be there in person, but I can’t imagine a better way for me to pay tribute to this amazing stallion than to re-post my blog from January 1, 2013 here. I created a hat for Thunder Rumble that month for our “Hats Off to the Horses” auction fundraiser series for Old Friends. This was the blog, this is my tribute. Rumble on, dear Thunder, you will be forever in our hearts.
This year, my New Year’s inspiration came from a horse. A horse named Thunder Rumble.
He lives at Old Friends’ satellite farm in New York called Old Friends at Cabin Creek; home to 14 Thoroughbred retirees under the loving care of JoAnn Pepper and her husband, Mark. JoAnn describes Thunder Rumble as her dream horse, her own “Black Stallion”, a 24-year-old nearly black Thoroughbred who stands a stunning 17 hands high.
This is the horse Old Friends and I chose to honor in January’s auction fundraiser, “Hats off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby.” This unique annual auction series is a six month event leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each month, MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® creates and donates a one-of-a-kind Derby hat to honor one of Old Friends’ retirees.
Of all the horses I could have selected for the January auction which begins the New Year, Thunder Rumble was the perfect choice. Even his name conjures up the sound of distant thunder and that tingling feeling of anticipation you get when you know that a storm is coming.
Thunder Rumble’s path was not the usual one toward greatness. He wasn’t the easiest horse to handle. And he missed the entire 1992 Triple Crown series due to a virus. Then when he won the Jim Dandy Stakes against a stellar field at Saratoga in early August of that same year, many thought it was a fluke. But when he came back in just three weeks and won the Travers Stakes he showed them all what a great champion he really was.
JoAnn says that even at 24 years old, Thunder Rumble still trumpets his presence loudly wherever he goes. He and his buddy, fellow Travers Stakes winner, Will’s Way, are often seen racing one another in their adjacent paddocks.
Like some mighty black steam engine, Thunder Rumble reminds me that I need to continually keep my passion in front of me and pursue it with everything I’ve got. Earlier this year, I clearly heard my own thunder rumbling as I tried to figure out what was my next path; in recent years I’d found a way to blend my passion for hats and horses by creating and donating Derby hats to raise funds for retired racehorses around the country. But a little voice inside kept whispering to do more.
After brushing it aside for months, I finally listened, joining Facebook in the Spring and later, starting this blog. I am now making new connections for my business and opening new doors for helping more horses in the future. What I learned through the experience is that it is the passion, like the thundering rumble within a horse that makes it run, that allows us to overcome the fear about trying new things and keeps us moving forward.
And in a pasture in Greenfield, New York a great senior stallion named Thunder Rumble still challenges his pasture mates to race him – and he wins; he wins because he believes he can. He has inspired me this New Year’s Day to keep listening for my own thunder rumble, to keep my passion front and center and to live with the anticipation that something’s coming. Something worth waiting for and working towards, heart and soul.
I invite you to enjoy the images below of the “Thunder Rumble” chapeau up for bid starting January 1st through the 11th. And please share a Comment below on this blog page. Let me know what New Year’s Day means to you. Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? And please be sure to sign up for email notifications of coming blog entries.
The fourth hat up for bid in our “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series honors the Ohio-bred stakes-winning gelding and 3-time Ohio Horse of the Year, Catlaunch.
I can’t even begin to tell you what a privilege it is to create these Derby hats to honor the retired racehorses of Old Friends. And nothing pleases me more than to share with you how each horse inspired me to create their individual millinery tributes.
For starters, I asked Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends, what his impressions were of his new retiree. “Catlaunch is a prime example of how a sturdy Thoroughbred, given the care and love of his trainer, groom, owner and jockey, can have a successful career for many years. He’s very smart and loveable and he eats carrots out of my mouth.”
Beth Shannon, a volunteer at Old Friends, described Catlaunch as “the color of an antique mahogany piece of furniture. A lovely, rich brown though not flashy. But there is one thing about his looks that’s very flashy – he is a giraffe! Tall, long legged, long necked, holds his head high, slender. He’s all heart and he’s sweet, too. He likes to lick faces and ears.”
My research continued with reviews of The Cat’s victories, his pedigree and his racing connections. Known affectionately by some as Thistledown’s “Iron Horse”, Catlaunch retired to Old Friends at the age of 13 a millionaire, with 40 victories and 22 stakes wins to his credit.
To capture Catlaunch’s statuesque, elegant physique, I decided on a splendid top hat style for the hat’s foundation.
I was thrilled when I found the perfect blue turquoise metallic taffeta to create it!
For the trim centerpiece I shaped a large rose curl out of alternating layers of blush pink and rose pink organza to adorn the front of the hat. A medley of turquoise blue organza leaves were fashioned to frame it.
A double bow and sash were created out of a rich golden mahogany brown crinkled taffeta lined with soft turquoise crinkled taffeta.
Mocha hat veiling was layered to delicately cover the entire hat and gracefully drape down over the wearer’s face.
For a final touch to the centerpiece, three long, curvaceous “feathers” were created out of mocha organza with a golden shimmer and then set behind the rose curl.
Three clear, soft blue buttons were hand stitched to adorn the back seam.
The lining was created from a rich chocolate taffeta.
The finished “Catlaunch” design measures approximately 17 inches across and 10 inches in height, inclusive of the “feathers”.
As a physical remembrance of Catlaunch, several strands of the great gelding’s tail hairs were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Catlaunch not only in spirit but in substance as well.
Talk about The Cat’s Meow!
Following a quick photo shoot here in our MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® studio…
The “Catlaunch” was off and running to Old Friends for the big photo shoot with Shea and Julien Leparoux!
For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Catlaunch photo shoot at Old Friends, check out the video footage below so generously provided by EquiSport Photos.
“Hats Off to the Horses” has kicked off the New Year in style with a fourth hat up for bid that honors Ohio-bred millionaire and 3-time Ohio Horse of the Year, Catlaunch. “Hats Off” is an annual Derby hat fundraiser that features six one-of-a-kind couture Derby hats created by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® to benefit the retired racehorses of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement in Kentucky.
We have been delighted this season to have jockey Julien Leparoux and his wife Shea join our “Hats Off” team to model hats for us as we continue with this year’s auction theme, “Rosie Napravnik and Friends”. Shea modeled the “Clever Allemont” chapeau in November, and this month she models the spectacular “Catlaunch” top hat. To read about this month’s auction, please visit the Catlaunch hat webpage.
Julien Leparoux is one of horse racing’s leading riders who earned the 2006 Eclipse Award for Outstanding Apprentice Jockey. In 2009, Julien became only the second jockey in history to win three Breeders’ Cup races during a single year.
Shea, the daughter of West Coast trainer Mike Mitchel, has spent her entire life around horses and the race track. A professional singer, she loves musical theater and has worked as an entertainer at Disneyland.
I recently got the chance to interview Shea and Julien following their photo shoot at Old Friends for the “Catlaunch” chapeau.
Sally Faith Steinmann: Shea and Julien, welcome to my Hats and Horses blog. For those who are meeting you two here for the first time, where were you born and where did you grow up? What are your earliest memories of horses?
Julien Leparoux : I was born in Senlis, France and grew up in Chantilly. I grew up riding and competed in show jumping by the age of 11.
Shea Leparoux: I am a southern California native, born in Arcadia at the hospital next to Santa Anita. I grew up watching my older sister compete in show jumping.
Sally: Julien, I read that your dad was a jockey and a trainer. When did you first realize that you wanted to be a jockey? Was there anyone who especially inspired or helped you along the way?
Julien: My dad was a jockey for a short time and an assistant trainer for many years. I had the horse racing bug early on. Jockey might have been my first words as a toddler. I always knew I wanted to be a jockey. But my father wouldn’t let me pursue riding races until I finished school.
Sally: Julien, I understand that you moved to the U.S. from France in 2003, worked as an exercise rider for Patrick Biancone and then had an amazing breakout season as a jockey in 2006. What goals or dreams do you have for the future?
Julien: Working for Patrick Biancone was a great stepping stool for my career, he believed in me and gave me many opportunities. One of my goals is to win the Kentucky Derby.
Sally: Julien, being a jockey means early mornings and a lot of travel; what would be the perfect day to you?
Julien: The perfect day for me would be relaxing at home, watching Paris St. Germain play a game, with my Italian Greyhound, Mozart.
Sally: And I have to ask about Mozart. He is THE cutest little dog and I love your Facebook posts of him. Tell us about him…
Shea: Our dog Mozart is 7 years old. He’s one of the coolest dogs. He travels better than most people. He also understands French and English.
Sally: Shea, you’ve had a long history with horses as well. Your dad is a West Coast 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?
Shea: I grew up in the horse racing world as well. I spent lots of mornings at Hollywood Park where my dad stabled for many years. My father, Mike Mitchell, loved having his daughters at the track, but did not want us to partake in it as a career. He even went as far to make a rule that we were not allowed to date jockeys.
Sally: I understand that you two recently celebrated your second wedding anniversary. I have to ask you, Shea, if your Dad didn’t want you to date jockeys, how did you and Julien ever meet?
Shea: Yes, we just celebrated our second anniversary. We met at a Kentucky Derby a while back. Julien also rode horses for my dad before we ever met. We reconnected, over strange circumstances, when my whole family went to Keeneland. Julien, unfortunately, took a spill at the track. When I found out who the jockey was I sent him a message on social media to make sure he was ok. With that, he immediately responded, and the rest was history. We now live in Kentucky, Florida, and Saratoga throughout the year.
Sally: I loved the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance’s new promotional video “All About the Horse” in which you do the voice. Tell us about that experience.
Shea: Being apart of the Aftercare Alliance video was fun for me. I was glad I could help out for a good cause. When singing and horse racing combine its a perfect exacta for me.
Sally: Shea, I remember that you sang the National Anthem on a recent Breeders’ Cup weekend and that you have enjoyed a singing career as an entertainer at Disneyland. What was your musical training growing up?
Shea: I never stopped singing as kid. I was in a choir for about eight years and studied with a vocal coach. I also did musical theater, my true passion. I started singing the national anthem at the races at 16. My dad took it upon himself to be my race track anthem agent. My highlights were singing at three different Breeders Cup events. It was awesome to be apart of it. I went on to study theater in college. I got my first performing job at 20. I worked at Hong Kong Disneyland, performing in a musical, as Belle. I then worked for Disney for the next eight years at Paris Disneyland, Disney Cruiseline, and Anaheim Disney.
Sally: I understand that your recent photo shoot at Old Friends for our “Hats Off to the Horses” Derby hat fundraiser wasn’t your first visit to Dream Chase Farm. Can you tell me a little bit about your trip to Old Friends back in April 2012 to visit Ball Four?
Julien: Yes, we visited Old Friends back in 2012 It was Shea’s first time. Visiting Ball Four was the highlight. He was the first horse I ever rode in a race. It was great to see him enjoying retirement at a place that truly cares about the animals. The only thing different about him was his grown out coat and long mane. He was still full of life and tried to take a bite out of me a couple times.
Sally: Our next hat up on the block for the January auction is the “Catlaunch” chapeau which was one of the hats, Shea, that you modeled at Old Friends. How did the photo shoot go?
Shea: The photo shoot with Catlaunch was fun. He was pretty fresh that day like he wanted to break out of the gate. Julien did a good job of keeping him calm. The best part was when someone played barn animal sounds from an iPhone to get him to perk up and pose. The trick worked!
Sally: And did you get a chance to meet Little Silver Charm, spokeshorse extraordinaire for Old Friends, while you were there at Dream Chase farm?
Shea: Little Silver Charm is pretty cute, greeting you when you arrive at the farm, he’s a great spokeshorse.
Sally: I am sure that people are going to be inspired by your support of Old Friends. Why is it 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?
Julien and Shea: After seeing first hand the great things that Old Friends does for retired race horses we have tried to help in any way we can. These amazing animals are our livelihood and we owe it to them to take care of them when they are done racing. People can get involved with Old Friends by participating in their fundraisers throughout the year. Another way of participating is through the Hats Off to the Horses auction that we are a part of along with Rosie and her husband Joe. If you take the time to visit the farm in Kentucky or Saratoga, go on the tour of the facility and you’ll see how much they care for these retired stars.
Sally: Shea and Julien, thanks again for helping us with our Sixth Annual “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series with the “Catlaunch” chapeau. We are really fortunate to have you on board as part of our “Hats Off” team!
Please enjoy this “behind-the-scenes” video from the “Catlaunch” photo shoot with Shea and Julien at Old Friends, a special treat from our friends Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos!
‘Til next time, thanks for visiting me at Hats and Horses!
This one-of-a-kind Derby hat was created to honor Ohio-bred, 3-time Ohio Horse of the Year and millionaire, Catlaunch, who recently retired to Old Friends.
Thank you to Shea and Julien Leparoux who have been super models for our auction hats this season as well as to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos for their photos and video. The dress that Bella Rose Clothing Boutique, Lexington, Kentucky furnished for Shea matched the “Catlaunch” top hat beautifully. Our thanks to you all!
For a behind-the-scenes peek of the photo shoot with She and Julien at Old Friends by EquiSport Photos, please check it out below!
The “Catlaunch” auction hat went up for bid January 1st on this Catlaunch EBay link; bidding ends January 11th at 8 PM EST.