Day At The Track

Silks maker scores big in Kentucky Derby

02:00 AM 18 May 2016 NZST
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Nick Ramkumar silks
Nick Ramkumar silks
Jockeys riding Nyquist and Exaggerator were wearing some breakthrough technology during their first- and second-place finishes in the 142nd Kentucky Derby (G-I).
Patent-pending Speed Silks®, designed and manufactured by Darby Racing Technology, LLC, are a new breed of equine jockey silks: form-fitting and made entirely of Aero Dimplex®, a patented aerodynamically-engineered fabric that is uniquely textured to reduce drag.
Both Nyquist and Exaggerator are expected to compete in the upcoming Preakness Stakes (G-I), along with Dazzling Gem, owned by Speed Silks customer Steve Landers Racing.
Product inventor and company founder Matt Darby sold his first set of Speed Silks in August of 2013, and says both Reddam Racing and Big Chief Racing - owners of Nyquist and Exaggerator, respectively - and Steve Landers Racing were some of his earliest customers.
"We started out in a home office, keeping track of customer orders with a grid on a dry-erase board." Darby says. "We outgrew that almost immediately, but for whatever reason, I've never erased the board, and it still has Reddam's and Big Chief's original orders on it. That thing has been hanging on my wall since the spring of 2014. I guess it's a good thing I never erased it, because now it's quite a souvenir."
Darby says Speed Silks took about two and half years to go from concept to sellable product, and that they have been designed from the ground up with aerodynamic efficiency as rule number one. "That goal determined everything: the aerodynamic fabric we used, the way we construct the jacket, helmet cover and jockey pants, even the way we put the colors and markings onto the silks."
Owners' markings are dyed directly into the Aero Dimplex fabric, allowing for completely seamless construction, resulting in less weight and a more aerodynamic shape. The Speed Silks product lineup consists of four products: jacket, helmet cover, jockey pants and boot sleeves.
"Speed Silks boot sleeves," Darby says, "are wraps made of Aero Dimplex that slide down over the jockey's boot. Aero Dimplex is dimpled like a golf-ball, and that's what gives it its aerodynamic properties. It's actually more aerodynamically-efficient than even a perfectly smooth surface, which is why we make the boot sleeves. We don't sell very many of them, but they're great for demonstrating just how effective Aero Dimplex is. There are other similar fabrics out there, but this one is the world's most aerodynamically-efficient fabric between 14 and 47 miles per hour, which is perfect for horse racing."
Darby adds that it's important to understand what Speed Silks can and cannot do. "They do not simply make the horse go faster," he says. "That's the jockey's job. What Speed Silks do is reduce the amount of energy the horse has to output in order to achieve and maintain speed.
"Many of our customers ask, 'Do they work?' What they usually mean is, 'Will Speed Silks make my horse run faster?' I say, 'Yeah, unless your horse can violate the laws of physics, they work.' I just can't say, 'They will shave off x seconds per furlong,' or anything like that."
Speed Silks have been worn by winners of dozens of graded stakes races, including Martin Garcia aboard Bayern, while winning the $5-million Breeder's Cup Classic (G-I) in 2014.
Matt Darby is available for comment at (806) 570-6920. Information about Speed Silks and gallery of images is at Speed Silks is also on Facebook and Twitter.
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