There are a lot of rules when it comes to naming a horse for example no obscenities, you can’t repeat the name of a Triple Crown or Breeders Cup Champion and if a horse is in the hall of fame horse his name is off limits so that forces horse owners to be creative.
I’ve scoured the Internet; I’ve called some of the oldest horse handicappers I know looking for the best, the coolest, the most suggestive and downright questionable names we could come up with.
When I made my selections I asked myself does this name make me smile. Does the name create a powerful image in my mind? Can I say this name in front of my mother without feeling awkward?
Let’s have a look.
The Jockey Club has definitely tightened up what they consider acceptable thoroughbred names so the past ten years are not nearly as colorful as the 100 plus years before. Here are a few of the best horse names of the past 10 years.
Funny Cide – The 2003 Derby winners name is a play on his fathers name Distorted Humor and his mothers Belle’s Good Cide. But to me the name Funny Cide sounds like a Superman villain some sort of Bizarro World version of Jack Kevorkian.
Big Brown – Named after UPS, Big Brown delivered the perfect product placement. UPS contractor Paul Pompa Jr. named his horse after his biggest customer. Now if only Kit Kat candy bars and Bombay Sapphire Gin would name a horse after me.
Stevie Wonderboy – Owner Merv Griffin said of his horse, “My horse isn’t blind he just wears big sunglasses."
Tabasco Cat – The 1994 Belmont stakes winner was as fiery as his name suggestions. Tabasco Cat put the son of trainer D. Wayne Lukas in a coma for several weeks after breaking lose during a training session.
Nutzapper – Nutzapper was the name given to Andy Hillis’ gelding horse until the Jockey Club figured out the name had nothing to do with cooking chestnuts in oil. The horse is currently named Awaiting Justice.
Ghostzapper – Ok maybe I like the name zapper for a horse but Ghostzapper not only had a cool name; he has the heart of a lion. After winning the 2004 breeders cup he could have retired to stud, earning a cool $200,000 per go round (My fees are significantly less) he came back for one more race easily winning the 2005 Metropolitan Handicap.
Everyday in the sporting world we use the analogies of war and horseracing is no different, here are some horses I would have gladly rode into battle.
Man o'War – Man o’War won every race but one. Who was the only horse to beat the legend? The horse that beat him was named “Upset” and thus popularized the term for an underdog victory.
War Admiral – Sired by Man o’War, War Admiral was the winner in 21 of his 26 starts with 3 places and a show, the only race the Admiral lost was his 1938 match race against Seabiscuit but on the bright side we all got a fantastic movie because of it.
Battleship – There was no sinking this horse, Battleship was the only horse to with both the American Grand National and the prestigious British Grand National.
The entertainment industry and the horseracing industry often go hand in hand. Several horses take their name from their celebrity owners or big movie productions and Hollywood, always looking for a good story, will produce a blockbuster featuring one of these famous thoroughbreds. Please note Bobcat Goldthwait vehicle Hot to Trot doesn’t fall into either the blockbuster or the famous thoroughbred category.
Seabiscuit - The aforementioned Seabiscuit was a rags to riches story, although slightly exaggerated in Hollywood’s portrayal but he did give the American public hope during the depression of the 1930s. In fact, Seabiscuit and his “Match of the Century” victory over Man o War was the most popular story of 1938 receiving more columns of print than any person or thing that year. President Franklin D Roosevelt was second and Adolf Hitler was third.
Pharlap – The Australian Wonder Horse was the subject of a fascinating movie 1983 movie bearing his name. The horse was too good; winning 37 of 51 races entered but being so good Phar Lap made some enemies. Just three days before the 1930 Melbourne cup, gangsters tried to assassinate the horse. Phar Lap survived this attempt on his life, won the Cup with the shortest odds (8/11) ever.
Afternoon Deelites – We all know what afternoon deelites are and being owned by ultra-smooth composer Burt Bacharach, makes this horse so much cooler.
The Belmont Stakes has a history of crushing the dreams of Triple Crown hopefuls with 20 horses, including last years Big Brown, winning both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness stakes before succumbing to the Belmont. During the early years, the Belmont also had a strange run of winners with odd names, well odd for thoroughbred horses.
1875 - Calvin
1889 - Eric
1905 - Tanya
1908 - Colin
1928 – Vito
The Preakness Stake had a couple champions named after my aunt and uncle.
1876 - Shirley
1879 - Harold
I hope this dark period in racing history never repeats itself
The great thing about the Kentucky Derby is all the traditions that come along with the first Saturday of May. The well dressed gentlemen, the women wearing hats they’d never wear outside of Churchill downs and of course my favorite the Mint Julep.
Google the recipe, it’s a fantastic combination of Kentucky Bourbon, Spearmint, Powdered Sugar and water. Many recipes won’t tell you but I will let you in on a little secret. The key to bringing out the unique tastes of a Mint Julep is to drink it from a metal cup.
Let’s have a look at a couple alcohol inspired names
Go For Gin - Mastered a sloppy track in 1994 to win the 120th Kentucky Derby and gave trainer Nick Zito his second Derby winner in 4 years.
Not Bourbon – This Canadian winner of the 2008 Queen Plate could be in the running for next year’s Kentucky Derby but his name guarantees he’ll be treated like an outsider in the land of Makers Mark.
We all know America hasn’t always been so cool to black people but looking back it’s pretty amazing how far the US has come.
Here are some actual horses registered through the Jockey Club and the year each was registered. Multiple years means multiple horses were registered under the same name.
You can kind of make a case for the horses named before the height of the civil rights movement but for the 3 horses registered after 1975 you just have to shake your head.
Tar Baby (1944, 1975, and 1985)
Uncle Remus (1944 and 1965)
Uncle Tom (1950),
Jungle Bunny (1953)
Blackface Minstrel (1980)
The most egregious example of this lax registration finished 3rd place in the 1911 Preakness Stakes. Well let’s just say the name rhymes with bigger and is used frequently by Chris Rock and Dr. Dre.
Late Great Comedian Bill Hicks was ahead of his time, his comedy was often over the heads of his audience, which would result some grumbling and some heckles from an impatient audience. His answer was simple “Hold on, Hold on the Dick jokes are coming.”
So I’ll close with this slide dedicated to the dick jokes of the horseracing world. Here are some of the most risqué, sexually suggestive and down right dirty horse names from the past 150 years.
Lagnaf – (1978) An acronym for Let’s all get naked…I’ll let you figure out the rest
Wrecked Em (1983)
Golden Shower (1955)
Bodacious Tatas (1985)
Blow Me (1945)
Cum Rocket (1969)
Date More Minors (1998)
And finally I’ll close with two of the best.
In 1969 there was a horse that raced at Aqueduct called Cunning Stunt, try saying that 5 times fast.
And of course the Youtube sensation Hoof Hearted www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNpyWfUBaOg
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the Derby,