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Fiona McLeod’s business Odds On Colours has thrived for 30 years since she started her working adventure, with Vaughan Marshall as her first customer in Durban in 1994. Marshall’s initial brief to come up with beautifully printed jockey silks entailed a home-based, manual sewing task that took two weeks to complete.


She concedes that it was all a bit hit and miss back then, with a very steep learning curve for someone not formally trained in graphic design. What started out as laboriously making jockey’s silks and vivid caps has since morphed into a multi-facetted business. This entails designing and making of personalised blinkers, saddlecloths, three-quarter sheets, browbands, winners’ blankets, groom’s bibs/sashes and other colourful paraphernalia which enhances the spectacle and rainbow-splashed pageantry on race day.

Now Fiona does all the designing digitally and uses computer power extensively, outsourcing printing responsibilities to a factory, then has dedicated CMT machinists to complete the commissioned work with brisk turnarounds. 


She explains, “This is a time-driven business, but I love a challenge in coming up with new designs and products. I always try exceeding people’s expectations, and have been so lucky to get such loyalty, goodwill, and support from customers in racing over the years.”


One prominent racing family that has stuck close over time are the Snaith’s. Fiona goes back a long way in the equestrian world – she and Susan Snaith went to riding lessons together when at primary school. She rode work for legendary trainers such as Reg Passmore and Ralph Rixon, as well as competing in Ladies Races but good-humouredly concedes those bold and brave, riding days are ancient history.


Fiona, a can-do dynamo who, modestly, is reluctant to talk about her own accomplishments, remembers being asked to design and make horse blankets at the old Clairwood racecourse. The process involved plenty of trial and error before the precision work was eventually completed satisfactorily. She has since expanded her local business to meet nationwide demand, sometimes despatching requested kit overseas (e.g., Dubai) as well. 


A daunting, deeply satisfying recent brief was designing and manufacturing all the material needed on Gold Cup Day at Hollywoodbets Greyville, run together with the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s World Pool initiative. 

“It was a big job and Hong Kong are strict before granting design approval, so everything had to be sent overseas – but it went off really well.” she said proudly of the favourable international exposure, whilst also expressing her gratitude to Durban-based racing operator, Gold Circle for their continued support. 


Referring to the outstanding marketing and highly visible, branded presence of Hollywoodbets on South Africa’s racecourses in KZN and the Cape, such a transformative factor in a previously moribund racing industry, Fiona confirms, “The involvement of Hollywoodbets has changed the landscape completely. I’m so grateful for HWB entrusting me to manufacture so much of their racing kit like saddle cloths, bibs and blankets in Durban and Cape Town.” 


Fiona is constantly adapting designs and production methods in her niche business. Years ago, jockey silks were quite baggy; since 2007 she has been offering slim fit, tighter, lightweight satin silks that are more aero-dynamic. The jocks love them, the vibrant colours make race-calling easier for commentators and provide beautifully bright imagery for fans. 

The next time you’re watching thoroughbred racing captivated by the kaleidoscope of colours, chances are many of them are from Odds On – Fiona McLeod’s business that had humble origins but is now, through decades of endeavour and spirited initiative, the market leader in South Africa.