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NEW YORK — To mark the third leg of the Triple Crown at Belmont Racetrack on Saturday, Raymond V. Casey, president of New York City Off-Track Betting, decided to celebrate with one of the most popular spectator sports around these parts — a fashion show.

It’s a move to distance OTB from gambling stereotypes. “We’re ready to shed the image,” said Casey, citing the recent introduction of restaurants that provide off-track betting as the initial phase in that process.

The idea for the event stemmed from more than just wanting to update the OTB image. “Thirty years ago, everyone at the Kentucky Derby was dressed to the nines,” Casey said. “We’re just trying to put together the fashion and horse-racing synergy from that time.”

But don’t think of derby dames in fancy feathered hats just yet. The trappings at Tuesday’s soiree at Drive-In Studios in Chelsea were of a completely different breed. In fact, devoid of equestrian staples, the riding crops and custom-designed helmets, the looks easily lent themselves to the New York runway. There were fur-trimmed blazers and gold lame jodhpurs, breezy pleated blouses and knits with oversize sculptural collars. The designers presenting — Iceberg, Rubin Chapelle, Seize sur Vingt, United Nude, House of Diehl, Dave Denis, Earnest Sewn, Fred Perry and Surface to Air — were not the typical names that come to mind in discussing equestrian wear.

“I was happy to see the designers pushing the envelope,” Casey said. Indeed they did. Even House of Diehl’s designer Mary Jo Diehl managed a look made from her favorite textile of choice, men’s shirt placards.

This story first appeared in the June 9, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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