Emotional Loyalty; Visual Festivity
The colours worn by jockeys in races are the registered "colours" of the owner or trainer who employs them.
The practice of horsemen wearing colours probably stems from medieval times when races, games, jousts or even fights were held between knights.
However, the origins of racing colours of various patterns may have been influenced by racing held in Italian city communities since medieval times.
Such traditional events are still held on town streets and are remarkable for furious riding and the colourful spectacle they offer.
1762-10-04 Nineteen members of England's Jockey Club announced an agreement at Newmarket to register their racing colors for purposes of distinguishing runners among a field of horses.
"For the greater Conveniency of distinguishing the Horses in Running, as also for the Prevention of Disputes, arising from not knowing the Colours worn by each Rider,…"
In the first list of Colours registered following the resolution of the Stewards of the Jockey Club, eighteen owners shared seventeen sets of colours
Many of the important men of the Colonial era, from the Governors down, chose quiet racing colors.
Sir Henry May’s were “Brown with yellow braid”;
Sir Edward Stubbs had “Black, with gold sleeves and cap”,
Sir William Peel’s were a simple “Purple”.
Sir Newton Stabb, Chief Manager of the HSBC, selected “Yellow and brown quartered, with brown sleeves and yellow cap”.
Jardines’ as a firm have never owned or financed a racing stable.
Jardine colors were originally the firm’s colors — Blue and white; the white was later changed to silver.
The jacket has always been a dignified dark blue, its front richly braided with silver, in the Hussar fashion.
The colors of “Mr St. Leger” were “Blue and silver”
Mr Catchick Paul Chater, as he then was, and the scanty records tell us that his China pony AVON won both the Fakei and Ashley Cups
His colors were at first “Straw jacket with mauve collar and chocolate cap”
Sir Hormusjee Naorojee Mody raced as Mr Buxey, his colors were “Blue and white stripes”.
Mr John Johnstone of Jardines, who made his name first in Shanghai, came down to ride in Hong Kong at the Annual Meeting.
For his own mounts, he added to the Ewo colors silver buttons and a cerise cap.
Messrs Wingard and Cire (Moller) chose “Blue and white with red anchor”.
For all-time honours for sombreness, Major Parker adopted for his colors “All black”.
Mr T. H. G. Brayfield (ship surveyor, of Messrs Carmichael and Clark) began racing as “Mr Ritchfield”.
He claimed challengingly to be Chinese and won his battle with the Railway by adopting the name “Mr Wong Sui Ngau” (Yellow Water Buffalo) which also became his stable name.
His colors were “Cream, mosquito on chest, pink cap”
This was his subtle allusion to a summons which he issued against the Railway authorities for permitting mosquitoes to breed on their property.
Parker and Mackie stable had an intriguing quartet—‘PETER, PECK, PICKLE and PEPPER. They had cheerful nursery colors — White with black spots.
Mr Charles Gordon Mackie, of Gibb, Livingston & Co., who in 1929 became Chairman of HKJC
Mr John Macgregor’s son, Mr J. F. Macgregor, a Steward of the Club, began racing in Shanghai about 1921.
He re-established the Strath stable in Hong Kong, and like his father has been very successful, his outstanding pony being the record.
His riders wear, with some minor modifications of arrangement, his father’s old colors — Cherry and Light Blue.
Perhaps more beautiful than helpful to race-goers were some of the eccentric confections:
Mr Tierce had Red, white and blue hoops — which still hold favor.
Mr Hau Un struck a new note with “Red with white stars”
Kong Brothers had “White, red star front and back, dark blue sleeves and cap”.
Messrs Grist and Beck sported “Saxe blue, with white circle front and back, white band on sleeves and quartered cap”.
Mr Ulster: Old gold, with three shamrocks and green cap
Mr Quartermaster seems to have been inspired by a shipping house-flag. He selected “Yellow, green, blue and red quartered”.
If the fair sex taught the sterner nothing about racing, they did set a few examples of visibility of colors.
Lady Chater chose “Mandarin yellow, with red sleeves and cap”.
Mrs Bell-Irving achieved a simple effect with “Bird’s-eye blue and claret cap”;
Mrs Forsyth, “Cerise, with purple braid and cap”;
Mrs Birkett, “Chocolate, with mauve sleeves and chocolate cap”;
Mrs H. W. Bird, wife of the Hon. Mr H. W. Bird (architect, of Palmer & Turner), had “Emerald green with yellow cross and green cap”.
But the men had no reason to be ashamed of their rainbow —
Mr Hector Sassoon: Peacock blue and old gold halved, old gold cap.
Mr John Bell-Irving: Green with gold braid.
Mr R. M. Dyer: Pale blue with black cap.
Messrs Hosie and Lay: Orange and dark blue halved, sleeves reversed, orange cap.
Other examples of clear effectiveness were set :
Mr J. H. Taggart, Managing Director of the Hong Kong & Shanghai Hotels.
Mrs Taggart stable colors were an unrelieved Scarlet, and hers “Old gold with light blue cap”.
Messrs Tester and Abraham were content with straight Pink.
Getting white breeches and bib, stock or cravat and jersey known as "silks" is a classic rite of passage when a jockey is first able to don silken pants and colours in their first race ride.
It has a parallel in how lawyers are spoken of as "taking silk"
At one time silks were invariably made of silk, though now synthetics are mostly used instead.
Nevertheless, the silks and their colours are important symbols evoking emotions of loyalty and festivity.
1901 Mr G. C. C. Master asked questions about racing colors. Why, he enquired, should owners not be able to register their colors?
“I go away for two or three years, and I come back and find someone else racing in my colors.”
In response the Stewards opened a register.
1921, years afterwards, the Chairman was moved to complain that owners made no use of it.
1930, new rules provided for the cancellation of registration if colors were unused for three successive years.
Acknowledgement to HKJC Racing Registry for offering record data.