Tomorrow at 6:24pm, 20 horses will line up at the track gates of Churchill Downs. Two minutes later, one of those horses will win the Kentucky Derby.
And when it does, there will be a tiny, nameless man in a brightly patterned jersey strapped to its back with a grin from ear to ear.
The ultimate second banana to the animals they ride, jockeys don’t get much of the glory for the big race. But what they’re often most remembered for are the flashy colors on their backs—uniforms known as “silks” that are steeped in sartorial tradition. So in honor of the weekend’s festivities, we’re taking a closer look at the mystery behind the race-day attire of these compact athletes.