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Jonjo O'Neill and AP
Cherished Colours on offer
Cherished Colours on offer
Cherished Colours Auction
Those who've dreamt of owning a racehorse can't deny they've imagined choosing the colours their thoroughbred would carry to victory. Would you go for something easy to spot, a white cap that you can see bobbing through the field at Cheltenham or a mix of blues that would look good against the flying grey you've always wanted to own.

Choosing a set of racing silks is not the free for all some potential owners would like it to be, and so rather limits owners artistic imagination, but the latest BHB Auction of Distinctive & Cherished Colours 2006, which takes place at Bonhams on 20 July, gives you the chance to buy some unique racing colours.

The Cherished Colours Auction includes rare silks, made up of just two colours, as well as some colours which are no longer available. In the past, owners were allowed to register more subtle shades of colours; the Duke of Devonshire's 'straw' silks and the late Lord Howard de Walden's 'apricot' would no longer be able to allowed when choosing new silks.

The Horseracing Regulatory Authority now specifies the use of only eighteen colours in which registration can be made (as long as they are not already owned by someone else) and has also standardized the design of colours, so that only a reproduction of certain designs specified within the rules can be used.

The auction’s top lot is expected to be the plain dark blue with a white cap, which is estimated to make £10,000, as is the pink with a royal blue cap. Prices for cherished colours can be huge, and plain colours ensure the most ferocious bidding. Everyone is familiar with the plain navy blue colours carried to victory by George Washington and Alexandrova this season, and Hawk Wing and Galileo in the past. They are of-course all owned by Mrs Sue Magnier, who is reported to have paid around £50,000 for the silks.

Second colours for many high profile owners are also essential when you have more than one runner in many of the big races, and it is rumoured that Mrs Magnier’s second set of silks in plain pink cost even more than the plain navy blue.

Famous racing silks include those carried by everyone's favourite winner at Royal Ascot last week - Ouija Board. Lord Derby's silks are registered as 'black, white cap'. But look closely at Ouija Board's silks next time you see her racing, and you'll notice that there will be one white button amongst the black.

Like many sporting quirks, this stems from superstition, when back in 1924 Lord Derby's Sansovino was set to run in the Derby.

Jockey Tommy Weston was getting changed to ride in Lord Derby's colours when he nervously got part of the white stock he was wearing around his neck caught around the black button on his jacket - so it ended up looking like he had one white button. Of course, the horse won the Derby and Lord Derby's silks have unofficially carried the white button ever since.

The inspiration for the BHB to begin organising auctions for cherished colours stems from the tale of how the mighty Godolphin came to acquire their now famous royal blue silks.

Cheshire based trainer Alan Bailey originally bought the silks when he started training in 1980, and the royal blue silks caught the eye of Godolphin racing manager Simon Crisford. After some serious negotiating Bailey accepted £26,000 for the silks which have now been carried to more than 1000 victories by Godophin horses.

The much missed Best Mate carried the maroon and light blue stripes of his owner Jim Lewis - who is also a devoted Aston Villa fan, and the clubs supporters also took to wearing their Aston Villa scarves to support Best Mate when he raced. A high profile owner can also find his colours start off in the racing world before becoming well know else where.

Sir Winston Churchill, a life long racing fan, didn't become a racehorse owner until the grand age of seventy-five and his racing silks, pink, chocolate sleeves and cap can now be found on the scarf of Churchill College, Cambridge.

You need not be a racehorse owner to register colours. Indeed many colours are registered to non-owners, who perhaps intend to own a horse at a later date, pass the right to use the colours to their children or simply as a possible investment.

So even if you don’t own that Cheltenham Gold Cup winner yet, but you think you might do, there’s nothing to stop you getting your hands on some cherished colours.

Click here to see the different cherished colours on offer at the auction.


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