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Also known as silks (a term more commonly used in the United States), the colours a jockey wears essentially represent his or her stable and is a way for punters and the general public to identify which stable a horse belongs to.
The custom of wearing colours began in England but soon spread throughout the world. Some of the most recognisable stables in the world are identifiable immediately through their jockey’s colours, such as the famous blue of the Godolphin stable.
As the colours a jockey wears represents the stable for which the jockey is riding, when it comes to the actual race, the colours allow punters to identify the position of their horse during proceedings.
Certain stables have more success than others at particular tracks, and looking for horses from that stable at a meeting is often a useful tip when betting on a race.
Colours also play a part in less experienced punters making their race selections. While experienced bettors will likely consider the track, the rider and a horse’s form, those less au fait with the sport often look at less in-depth factors. A race that captures the public’s imagination, such as the Grand National, will often see once-a-year punters pick the colours they find most attractive.
The practice of jockey’s wearing colours stems from medieval times when knights contesting jousting events would wear coloured garments to identify the houses and regions they were entering on behalf of.
One of the most famous sets of colours is the purple and scarlet with intricate gold braiding on the front of the Queen’s horses.