For our final auction of the season we are featuring the “Danthebluegrassman” chapeau that honors Kentucky-bred Danthebluegrassman whose major wins included the 2002 Gold Rush Stakes and the Golden Gate Derby.
In September of 2016 we started something new in our “Hats Off to the Horses” fundraiser by holding our first ever “Pick a Pony” contest. The public was invited to vote for their favorite Old Friends horse out of a group a 4 finalists, and Danthebluegrassman was the winner!
Dan qualified for the 2002 Kentucky Derby and his name was in the program. Unfortunately he was injured before the race and did not start in the Run for the Roses that was won that year by War Emblem, another Old Friends retiree.
Dan was retired to Old Friends in Kentucky in 2008 thanks to the efforts of Jim Ponte and Tim Ford.
In an April 20, 2008 Bloodhorse article by Claire Novak, President and Director of Old Friends, Michael Blowen, described the arrival of Danthebluegrassman to Old Friends in this way: “He walked off the truck like a puppy dog. We led him into a stall and gave him a couple of carrots, and he’s just the sweetest horse with lovely brown eyes.”
When I asked Beth Shannon, volunteer at Old Friends, her impression of Danthebluegrassman, she responded, “Dan is our resident Lovable Oaf. He’s really big, fully 17 hands, and really big boned. He’s bossy to his paddock mates, though not mean. He’s kind natured.”
Clearly, a very special hat was needed to honor this charming retiree of Old Friends!
To begin the design process I went online and read accounts of Dan’s racing days and connections. I soon 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 wide brim design was created out of champagne dupioni silk.
And for the trim centerpiece I created a large red Derby rose to honor Dan’s extraordinary achievement in qualifying for the 2002 Kentucky Derby, fashioned out of alternating layers of red dupioni silk and silk organza.
Danthebluegrassman would finally have his red Derby rose!
I then framed the rose with a medley of deep yellow organza leaves that were top stitched in red for added detailing.
Large red silk organza “bow loops” and a layer of soft mocha veiling were added to provide a colorful backdrop for the rose and leaves.
Five chocolate brown organza “feathers”, a MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® trademark, were added to the rose curl centerpiece for a final, playful trim accent. The entire trim centerpiece was then stitched to the front of the hat.
Yards of shimmering, wispy red tulle were gathered and layered around the crown to provide an elegant “nest” for Dan’s rose.
A layered sash, created out of deep yellow dupioni silk with a red dupioni silk lining, was wrapped around the crown of the hat.
For the finishing touch, a large shimmering espresso button was added to the back of the hat as a reflection of Dan’s beautiful brown eyes.
The lining was created from a yellow taffeta to coordinate with the trims.
The finished “Danthebluegrassman” hat design measures over 20 inches across, inclusive of the tulle layers. A stunning creation from every angle!
As a physical remembrance of Danthebluegrassman, 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 Danthebluegrassman not only in spirit but in substance as well.
The purpose of this amazing millinery delight is to honor the life of Danthebluegrassman 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.
Hats Off to you, Danthebluegrassman!
Soon the hat was on its way to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with our models.
This month we were fortunate to have two of our models, Krystal Court and Shelby Landeros join us for the photo shoot with Danthebluegrassman, showing his hat to full advantage.
What a lucky horse!
For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the photo shoot…
We want to extend a big thank you to jockey Chris Landeros and his lovely wife, Shelby, as well as jockey Jon and his wife Krystal and daughter Aubrey who were splendid models for the “Danthebluegrassman” chapeau as well as to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos who worked their photographic magic once again. The dresses that Bella Rose Clothing Boutique, Lexington, Kentucky furnished for Shelby and Krystal matched the chapeau beautifully. Our thanks to all of you!
This month we are featuring the “Zippy Chippy” chapeau as the third hat in our auction series. This one-of-a-kind couture Derby hat created by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® honors horse racing celebrity, Zippy Chippy, who retired to Old Friends’ satellite farm in New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek: The Bobby Frankel Division , in 2010.
Described as “the most famous maiden in American horse racing history”, this dark bay gelding may have had a 0 for 100 record but his many adoring fans will tell you that he is living proof that not all winners finish first. In 2000, People Magazine voted Zippy Chippy one of the year’s “Most Intriguing Characters.” In April 2010, Zippy was retired to Old Friends at Cabin Creek thanks to the generous help of his longtime owner-trainer, Felix Montserrate.
The Zippy Chippy hat auction marks the second 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 at Cabin Creek is located in Greenfield, New York. The farm is home to 14 retired racehorses 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 Zippy Chippy she responded, “Zippy is unique in a great way and he means a lot to us here. He has taught us so much. His friendship with Red (Red Down South, another retiree) is inspiring. He listens to Red, his buddy, for guidance.”
And she added, “He has changed a lot since arriving here over 7 yrs ago. I think he is very content… as long as we don’t ask him to do much!”
Clearly, a very special hat was needed to honor this charming retiree of Old Friends!
To begin the design process I went online and read accounts of Zippy Chippy’s racing days and connections, and soon 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 “Zippy Chippy” hat was fashioned as a wide brim design created out of white dupioni silk.
The edge of the brim was trimmed with a unique double organza brim edge which allows light to pass through the sheer fabric.
Created out of royal blue silk organza and topstitched with dozens of swirling white and chocolate embroidered strands to reflect Zippy’s 100 races, these shimmering blue layers convey the motion of the Thoroughbred athlete at a full rolling gallop.
A thin strip of fancy white braiding top stitched to the ruffled brim edges was added to give it a finished look.
For the trim centerpiece, a large peony flower was sculpted out of white silk organza for the petals, each petal individually wired and shaped.
The center of the peony is a rose curl that was fashioned out of alternating layers of red dupioni silk and silk organza with a luminescent red button for accent. This single red rose was created to honor the special friendship that Zippy Chippy shares with his best buddy at Old Friends Cabin Creek, Red (Down South).
This floral centerpiece was then framed with a medley of royal blue silk organza leaves, individually wired and shaped.
Long fabric “feathers”, a MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® trademark, were then carefully stitched out of white, royal blue and chocolate organza, layered and shaped to add a splash of dramatic detail to the floral trim.
A sash was created out of folded layers of royal blue silk organza to encircle the crown of the hat.
For the finishing touch, a handcrafted button created out of 100 luminescent chocolate seed beads reflecting Zippy Chippy’s famed 100 starts, was fashioned to adorn a small blue silk organza bow on the back of the hat. A fitting jewel for a horse whose wins are defined not by his trips to the winner’s circle but by the many hearts he has won with his story.
The finished “Zippy Chippy” hat design measures approximately 24 inches across inclusive of the embroidered blue organza brim layer.
As a physical remembrance of Zippy Chippy, 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 Zippy Chippy not only in spirit but in substance as well.
The purpose of this amazing millinery delight is to honor the life of Zippy Chippy and all of the horses who, thanks to the generosity of those who support their aftercare, now graze in the warm sunshine of Old Friends Cabin Creek for the rest of their lives.
And from all that I have heard, it sounded like everyone at Old Friends Cabin Creek in New York had one heck of a good time at the photo shoot – especially Zippy!
We want to extend a big thank you to TV analyst from Gulfstream Park and former Miss Connecticut, Acacia Courtney, for modeling the “Zippy Chippy” chapeau as well as to Connie Bush of Tiger Eye Photography who worked her photographic magic for us at Old Friends Cabin Creek. We couldn’t have done it without you! 😉
Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Zippy Chippy” chapeau and the horse who inspired it.
We’d also like to mention an exciting new social media campaign that we are introducing for Season 8 called, “Friends of Old Friends”. The following is this month’s “Friends of Old Friends” poster and we want to send a big thank you to all of the organizations that are participating and sharing the word about “Hats Off to the Horses”!
Described as “the most famous maiden in American horse racing history”, this dark bay gelding may have had a 0 for 100 record but his many adoring fans will tell you that he is living proof that not all winners finish first. To read more about Zippy, please visit the Zippy Chippy webpage.
It’s been a year full of surprises in our “Hats Off” fundraiser. This month we are delighted to have TV analyst at Gulfstream Park and former Miss Connecticut (2014-2015), Acacia Courtney joining our “Hats Off” team to model hats for us. Acacia modeled the spectacular “Zippy Chippy” chapeau at Old Friends’ satellite farm in New York, Old Friends at Cabin Creek.
Originally from Connecticut, 23-year-old Acacia Courtney has worn many hats during her 23 years! A horse lover ever since she was a little girl, Acacia grew up around horses and trained in the hunter/jumper and dressage disciplines. She is a graduate of Fordham University with a major in Communications (Journalism concentration). She is also a dancer, trained specifically in ballet, jazz/musical theater, and ballroom dancing. In 2011 Acacia founded the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization Racing for Home Inc. which is dedicated to retraining OTTBs for new careers after the racetrack. Acacia was Miss Connecticut from June 2014 to June 2015, and as a titleholder in the Miss America Organization she was an Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Acacia has worked for America’s Best Racing, HRN and currently Gulfstream Park Casino, covering racing events like the Kentucky Derby, the Dubai World Cup, the Pegasus World Cup Invitational and the Breeders’ Cup.
I recently got the chance to interview Acacia following her photo shoot at Old Friends Cabin Creek for the “Zippy Chippy” chapeau.
Sally: Acacia, welcome to my Hats and Horses blog! Old Friends and I are thrilled to have you join our “Hats Off” team this year, and I’m so glad I got the chance to catch up with you and ask you a few questions for this Q&A. Acacia, for those who are meeting you here for the first time, where were you born and where did you grow up?
Acacia: I was born and raised in Connecticut.
Sally: What is your earliest memory of a horse (or pony)?
Acacia: I remember going on a pony ride at a birthday party when I was very young, maybe around 5 years old. There still is a photo of it on our fridge.
Sally: Did you ride or own horses when you were little or as a young adult?
Acacia: Yes, I started taking riding lessons when I was about 8. I was also dancing and playing piano at the time, and had a very busy childhood! I did horse shows, studying hunter jumper and dressage disciplines. I leased a mare named Miss Kitty growing up, and the first Thoroughbred I rode was an OTTB named Siren, whom I absolutely adored. The first horse my family got (my mom rides as well) was in 2009 – an OTTB from Suffolk Downs named Palace Diva, and she’s still, and always will be, with us.
Sally: Acacia, you graduated from Fordham University with a major in Communications in December 2015. How long have you been a dancer and where did you receive your training? Were there any dancers who especially inspired you?
Acacia: I started taking dance lessons at 3 years old at the Hartford Ballet School. As I got older and more involved in dance, I started taking some lessons in New York City, and eventually studied at Steps on Broadway in the pre-professional program, as well as the Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre schools. I performed and competed in ballet, jazz/musical theater, and ballroom (International Latin). I always loved watching Yulia Zagoruychenko, who became an International Latin world champion with her partner Riccardo Cocchi, and she was also a teacher of mine.
Sally: You were also Miss Connecticut (June 2014 – June 2015) during which time you were the Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as a titleholder in the Miss America Organization and a top-15 semifinalist at Miss America. How did that all come about for you, and what was the experience like?
Acacia: I won Miss CT in my fourth year competing for the state title, and during that time, being Miss CT was pretty much my full time job. I took a leave of absence from college and traveled the state of CT speaking at schools and charity events, promoting the Miss America Organization, and serving as an ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. I would visit the Connecticut Children’s Medical Center on a monthly basis, and those kinds of days were certainly my favorite ones as Miss CT. Having the chance to spend time with those kids, and hopefully make them smile for just a few minutes, was the most significant part of my year. Their strength and courage never ceased to amaze me. I also promoted my own personal platform of the Monday Campaigns, focusing in on Meatless Monday and Move It Monday, targeting childhood obesity and the way we approach the concept of health. If even just one kid took something away from one of those school assemblies, then that was success in itself.
Sally: Acacia, since May of 2016 you have been working as a an on-air analyst at Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino as well as on the Horse Racing Radio Network. You worked before that with America’s Best Racing from January 2015 to March 2016 as a commentator and model for digital video production. When did you first know in your heart that you wanted to be involved in the world of horse racing?
Acacia: I always knew that I loved Thoroughbreds and that I’d want to be involved with them in some capacity. It was in college that I even realized I could make racing my career. I dove in head first and, not knowing much about the actual racing game at the start, I was lucky enough to have some great mentors whom I asked a lot of questions. I also taught myself quite a bit, researching things on my own that I might not understand.
Sally: I’ll bet you’ve met some pretty amazing racehorses over the years. Do you have any favorites? Do you have a favorite racehorse of all time, either living or dead?
Acacia: I always had a soft spot for Seabiscuit when growing up, as he was one of the first racehorses I really became familiar with. But, I never got tired of watching Zenyatta. She was always such a thrill.
Sally: If you had to pick your 3 favorite moments in horse racing, what would they be?
Acacia: 1) Obviously watching American Pharoah win the Triple Crown live is a moment I’ll never forget. It was also the first and only year (so far) that I have attended all three Triple Crown races in a year.
Acacia: 2) The Pegasus World Cup is something I feel so lucky to be a part of. My favorite moment from it was not exactly the race itself, but right before when the horses were in the walking ring. I watched California Chrome and Arrogate right in front of me with the electric crowd while analyzing the race, and I got chills like I’ve never felt before. 3) I’ve been lucky enough to travel quite a bit over the past couple years, and watching California Chrome win the Dubai World Cup live was really something amazing to see.
Sally: Was there anyone who especially inspired or helped you along the way in your career?
Acacia: I’ll always be grateful to Mike Penna from the Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) for giving me a shot on air in 2015 when I was new to racing. The whole HRRN team has been influential, especially Anthony Stabile, whom I worked closely with on the radio and taught me a lot. Now I’m lucky enough to work alongside Ron Nicoletti and Gabby Gaudet every day, and I think we do a good job of inspiring each other.
Sally: Do you hope to continue your work as an on-air analyst or do you have an idea about some other kind of work that would truly be your dream job?
Acacia: I love working as an on-air analyst and really enjoy being on TV. I’m not sure if it will forever be horse racing or even sports, but I’m loving what I’m doing right now and couldn’t be happier with where I am.
Sally: Acacia, I understand you are living in Florida now. What are you doing there, and how does life in the Sunshine state compare to New York or Connecticut?
Acacia: I moved to Florida when offered the on-air handicapper position at Gulfstream Park. Obviously it’s much different than the Northeast, and while I don’t miss the snow, living down here was certainly an adjustment. I love where I work and it has been tremendous experience. NYC in general is much more of a fast paced city than Hollywood, FL, but we’re definitely fast paced at the racetrack.
Sally: Acacia, you wear so many different hats! If you could have “the perfect day”, what would it look like to you?
Acacia: I’m a workaholic, so I feel weird when I have too much free time on my hands. But, any perfect day is spent with good friends and family, and probably with good food and wine too.
Sally: Acacia, our new hat up on the block for the March auction is the “Zippy Chippy” chapeau which was one of the hats that you modeled at Old Friends. Had you ever been to Old Friends before, either in NY or in KY?
Acacia: Yes I had been to both before.
Sally: Had you ever met Zippy before?
Acacia: I saw Zippy on my first visit to Old Friends in NY. When we found out that he was there, that was one of the main horses we went to see.
Sally: How did the photo shoot go?
Acacia: The shoot was a lot of fun. Zippy loves his mints and was pretty well behaved! I was armed with treats for him, and though he was a little slobbery, we had a lot of fun. It was pretty cool to do a shoot with him, as I remember watching him race at a New England fair when I was a kid.
Sally: Did you get a chance to meet any of the other retirees while you were there at Old Friends Cabin Creek?
Acacia: I did, the volunteers there were nice enough to give a quick tour. It was especially great to see King Congie, who had only recently made it to Old Friends after ending up in an auction house. It was so nice to see that he had found a safe and loving forever home.
Sally: Acacia, I have to tell you that you look GREAT in hats! Have you always been a “hat person”, and where is your favorite place to wear a hat?
Acacia: Thank you! I think the Kentucky Derby and big race events are definitely the best place for a hat. On days when I am running around at the track working, I will usually opt for a fascinator instead.
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 T’bred athletes, and do you have any suggestions for how people can get involved and participate in helping the retired racehorses?
Acacia: I think we owe a lot to theses horses, who have given so much to us. They have provided entertainment and, for many, a livelihood during their time on the racetrack, and Thoroughbreds always give their all in whatever they do. It’s up to us to make sure that they get what they deserve when their time on the racetrack is over. There are many wonderful organizations that provide retirement or retraining for OTTBs, giving them the chance to even start a new career jumping, working as a lesson horse, as a companion animal, or any other number of options.
Sally: You have done so much for retired racehorses yourself with your nonprofit organization Racing for Home Inc. that you founded in 2011 which is dedicated to retraining OTTBs for new careers after the racetrack. Can you tell us how that all came about?
Acacia: I wanted to be a part of ensuring that OTTBs were cared for once they left the racetrack, and I had always loved and admired Thoroughbreds. As I mentioned, they have so much heart. Since its start, Racing for Home has worked with and found new careers for 20 OTTBs. It’s on a small scale, but I’m sure it has made a difference to those that we have worked with.
Sally: Acacia, thanks again for helping us with our Eighth Annual “Hats Off to the Horses” auction series with the “Zippy Chippy” 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 slideshow of photos from the “Zippy” photo shoot with Acacia at Old Friends of Cabin Creek, a special treat from photographer Connie Bush of Tiger Eye Photography.
And to my readers, thank you all for visiting us today at Hats and Horses!
Welcome to our March “Hats Off to the Horses” auction for 2017 that honors horse racing celebrity and Old Friends Cabin Creek retiree, Zippy Chippy!
As some of you know 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.
Please join me in thanking the following organizations that have joined us whom we are thrilled to welcome as “Friends of Old Friends”!
Thank you “Friends of Old Friends”, one and ALL!
Bidding is now underway on EBay for our third auction hat of the season, the “Zippy Chippy” chapeau. Click HERE to bid, and thank you for your support for Old Friends!