The walls at Jewell’s on Main in Warsaw, Ky., has dozens of jockey silks displayed in celebration of the upcoming Kentucky Derby. The silks, jackets worn by jockeys in races decades ago are from the private collection of Debby Shipp, of Dry Ridge, Ky. (Staff photo by Ken Ritchiefirstname.lastname@example.org)
Seth Grundhoefer Courier Staff Writer
Thoroughbred horse racing and Kentucky go together much like spaghetti and meatballs - a fact you don't have to waste your breath explaining to Warsaw, Ky., restaurant owners Justin and Rena Mylor.
From now until the end of May, their restaurant, Jewell's on Main, will feature vintage jockey silks once used at Kentucky horse tracks. The display also celebrates Saturday's 139th running of the Kentucky Derby - known to many as the greatest two minutes in sports.
Restaurant-goers can admire the silks while dining in the historic downtown location.
Silks are worn by all jockeys and often feature designs original to the farm where the horse was raised.
The jockey jackets, some of which are estimated to be about 50 years old, belong to Debby Shipp, a Dry Ridge resident and friend of the Mylor family.
Some of the silks have signs of wear and tear and actual horse prints, Shipp said.
"These jockey silks have a lot of miles on them," she said.
Shipp compiled the collection while working at the Florence, Ky., horse track Turfway Park in the late 1980s and 90s. At the track, she noticed that jockey silks would get discarded after sometimes spending 20-plus years in the locker room.
Not wanting to see the small piece of Kentucky heritage tossed aside, she asked a co-worker to salvage the silks for her. Over the span of 10 years, she compiled more than 100 jackets, all of which featured unique colorful designs.
"The amount of handwork that is put in these things is just beautiful," she said. "And they don't them make like they used to."
With the collection, Shipp said her goal has been to promote the sport and show the state's history of thoroughbred racing.
Once a year, Shipp used to take the silks to Dry Ridge Elementary School to allow teachers to implement them into lessons on Kentucky history.
There, the students would wear the silks while listening to the presentation.
"I run into kids now that are well into their 20 years that still remember that," Shipp said.
This year, Shipp said she selected Jewells on Main because of the owner's love for Kentucky roots and culture and thoroughbred racing. And the tasty menu.
"I fully expect to see them on the Food Network some day," she said.
Shipp plans to continue showing the silks, partly out of concern about the state of the horse racing industry and the fan base. She also is considering lending out the collection to the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati to up the exposure.
"I worry about people not understanding or knowing what a beautiful sport it is," she said.