'The Ruhlmann' Derby Chapeau Being Auctioned

Designer hats being auctioned to raise funds for Old Friend retirement center.

“The Ruhlmann”,” the sixth and final chapeau offered in the “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” online fashion auction of exclusive Kentucky Derby Hats, is scheduled to go on the auction block April 1.

This is the sixth and final chapeau offered in the 2011 series of hats being auctioned to raise funds for Old Friends, the 501(c) (3) non-profit organization in Central Kentucky dedicated to the dignified retirement of former racehorses.

Each hat has been auctioned on the first of day of the month since November, with all of the high-fashion action leading up to this year’s May 7 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). 

The hats are designed and handcrafted by custom milliner Sally Faith Steinmann of the Massachusetts-based Maggie Mae Designs and each one is inspired by one of the champions retired at Old Friends.

Bidding takes place at the Old Friends web site on the night of April 1.

“The Rulhmann” honors the seven-time stakes winner and winner of the 1990 Santa Anita Handicap, who was pensioned at Old Friends in 2004 by his owners, Jerry and Ann Moss. During his racing career, Ruhlmann won 10 of 27 starts for earnings of  nearly $2 million. Ruhlmann died on Christmas Eve of 2008 at the age of 22.

Consistent with her style, Steinmann has created the hat using colors and embellishments to reflect the equine honoree’s career and accomplishments.

The “Ruhlmann” is done in a rich black dupioni silk, which represents the stallion’s deep ebony coat, while a palette of teal and pink trimmings echo the racing-silk colors of the Moss stable. Highlights of the hat’s design include a dramatic 24-inch brim that is decorated with ruffles of black tulle and black silk organza and embellished with elegant braiding that is top stitched in place for a finished look. The centerpiece is an enormous pink rose curl created with swirling layers of pink organza and pink dupioni silk while a cinnamon-tinted teal taffeta sash–gently gathered for added texture and movement–circles the crown. Steinmann has also woven in a physical remembrance of the horse: Several strands of Ruhlmann’s tail hairs were braided into the trim to create a truly one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau.

So far, the auction has raised nearly $5,000 for Old Friends this year and nearly $8,000 since 2009.