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.
We 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.
The 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.
When 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!”
And 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.”
Right 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.
Next, a sketch of the hat was made, fabrics were chosen and the creative process was underway!
The foundation of the “Alphabet Soup” hat was fashioned as a curved wide brim design created out of pearl-white dupioni silk.
A 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.
Yards 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.
And the Alphabet Soup hat is covered in Derby ROSES!
Inspired 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.
The 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.
A sash, created out of deep olive green taffeta lined with tomato red taffeta, encircles the crown of the hat.
One more rose-and-leaves cluster adorns the back of the hat.
And for the finishing touch, a large pewter pebble button adorns the back seam.
The “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.
The finished “Alphabet Soup” hat design measures over 23 inches across inclusive of the tulle.
As 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.
The 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.
Soon 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!
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!
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.
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!
Thank you for visiting Hats and Horses, and here’s to our best auction season yet!
“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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sally: You two were married in Hot Springs, Arkansas. What year was that?
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.
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.
Sally: 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.
Sally: 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!
Sally: 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!
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!
And 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!