High-Tech Jockey Silks Part of Mike Smith and Justify’s Successful Triple Crown Victory

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Amarillo, Texas – June 13, 2018  —  Jockey Mike Smith was wearing a new type of high-tech silks in all three legs of his 2018 Triple Crown bid. Speed Silks® brand jockey silks are made entirely of an aerodynamically-engineered, patented technical fabric that’s already used in speed sports like cycling, speed skating and downhill skiing.

WinStar Farms —whose colors Smith wore aboard Justify in the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G-I) and Preakness Stakes (G-I)— has been buying and using Speed Silks since the spring of 2015. China Horse Club became a customer in the spring of 2017; Smith wore their colors in his 2018 Belmont Stakes (G-I) win.

The 2018 Triple Crown wins are the latest in a number of very high-profile wins by jockeys in Speed Silks. Since the product launched in August 2013, Speed Silks have been on the winners of two Kentucky Derbies, two Preakness Stakes, two Belmont Stakes and one Breeders’ Cup Classic (G-I).

“I’m flabbergasted by the amount of success our owners have had in such a short amount of time,” says Speed Silks inventor and owner Matt Darby. “We knew we had a great idea when we started the design process several years ago, but we weren’t sure how readily the industry would accept it. But more people in Thoroughbred racing are adopting the philosophy of ‘marginal gains,’ and thankfully they’re now starting to pay attention to the importance of aerodynamic drag. It’s critical. More important than weight, in fact.”

Justify winning the Belmont – AP source

Speed Silks were designed from the ground up with two priorities: reducing aerodynamic drag, and jockey comfort. A key to both is the patented technical fabric Aero Dimplex®. The textile is dimpled —much like a golf ball— which reduces both form drag and skin friction. [Darby can explain both at length; his contact information follows.] It also allows the use of dye sublimation to apply the colors and markings of each owner’s specific silks; that eliminates the need to sew the markings piece-by-piece. Instead, they are dyed directly into the fabric. Built with a form-fitting pullover design, Speed Silks are entirely seamless, further reducing weight and drag.

“The seamless design was adopted entirely with aerodynamic drag in mind,” Darby says, “but it also gives the silks a very distinctive, high-end look that owners love. That was a surprise early on: a lot of owners seemed more excited about the way the silks looked than their aerodynamic properties! I’m not complaining, mind you.”

Aero Dimplex is thin, very breathable, moisture-wicking and very stretchy. “Regarding comfort, jockey feedback has always been overwhelmingly positive,” Darby adds. Speed Silks this summer will add a new feature to its products: Coldblack®, a patented textile treatment that blocks and reflects ultraviolet light, keeping the garment and the wearer cooler in the sun.

Previous major wins in Speed Silks include 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern (jockey Martin Garcia/owner Kaleem Shah), 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Mario Gutierrez/Reddam Racing), 2016 Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator (Kent Desormeaux/Big Chief Racing) and 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit (Jose Ortiz/Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners).

Darby’s inspiration to build better silks came at Turf Paradise in Phoenix, Arizona. He had just accepted a marketing position at the American Quarter Horse Association in Amarillo, Texas. Most of his work was on behalf of the racing department, and so the Association regularly sent him to tracks across the country. During his visit to Turf Paradise —the first horse race he had ever attended— he asked a co-worker why the jockeys were wearing such baggy silks.

“He almost didn’t understand the question,” Darby remembers. “That gives you a good idea of the mentality we’ve had to overcome with this product. People in this business haven’t traditionally thought about wind resistance. They always think about weight, but it turns out that’s much less important than aerodynamic drag. I studied the subject a lot when I was knocking around the idea of better silks.”

“Anyway, I kept asking around, and I always got the same answer: ‘I don’t know, they’ve always been like that.’ I discovered that “aero” silks showed up in the early 90’s, but they were never terribly popular with jockeys because those Spandex silks are heavy and they don’t breathe. That’s another reason we went with Aero Dimplex fabric: it’s very comfortable for the jockey.”

“So, once I was convinced the concept was valid, I got to work designing the first round of prototypes. I had the help of a Quarter Horse jockey, G.R. Carter, Jr. He was the biggest name in the business at the time, but that’s not why I picked him; he was the only jockey I knew personally. He was incredibly helpful and made the perfect “model” jockey. Plus, he’s a bit larger than your average Thoroughbred jockey, and I’d rather the silks be a little too large than a little too small. They need to be form-fitting without restricting movement,” Darby says. Speed Silks are available in two sizes: Regular and Large. Regular is the default size for North American jockeys.

The first set of Speed Silks was sold in August of 2013 (to Wes Melcher’s Double Infinity Ranch). Two important things happened quickly: Bob Baffert’s office called to order Speed Silks for a couple of their owner-clients, and the Australian horse racing retailer horsefabulous inquired about representing Speed Silks in the Asia-Pacific region.

“So right away, we had one of the biggest names in the business buying our stuff, and we get a foot into the Asia-Pacific market,” Darby says. Both of those relationships are going strong today.

Speed Silks are patent-pending. The product lineup includes silks jackets, racing helmet covers, jockey pants and boot sleeves – a product unique to Speed Silks. Examples of the product can be seen at SpeedSilks.com/Gallery. Matt Darby is available for comment at (806) 570-6920 or MJDarby@me.com. Customers wishing to inquire about Speed Silks can e-mail info@SpeedSilks.com or call (806) 333-8589.  Asia-Pacific customers e-mail info@horsefabulous.com.au.

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About Editor

Rich Nilsen is a 15-time qualifier to the National Horseplayers Championship (NHC), an event he has cashed in four times. He was the first player to finish in the top 10 twice. He was also a winner of a $24,000 package into Kentucky Derby Betting Championship I. A former executive with Brisnet.com, Rich is also a graduate of the University of Louisville Equine Business Program. He is founder of AGameofSkill.com, a site devoted to horse racing education and promotion.

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