Thursday, February 19, 2009

"What's In A Name?"

Shakespeare asked his audience this in Romeo and Juliet, but what does that have to do with horse racing?

Everything. Names mean more than most would think in the world of horses. It can show a horse's lineage, reflect the horse's personality, remind those involved of a funny story, or have a deep background meaning.

In the racing industry, "who's your daddy" takes on a whole new meaning. Simply put, great sires end up making great names. If a horse had a strong enough racing career, chances are his offspring are going to have a name that resembles his in some form.

For example, the mighty Man O' War has produced many great colts and fillies, but the one that is best known for being out of Man O' War is his very famous son, War Admiral.

I personally have noticed a line of horses within the past couple years that have sported the word cat with them. Coincidentally or not, a few years before this trend started, a lower end horse named Cat Thief was retired to stud. Now he is passing on his name along with his talent.

A common theme can also be passed down in names such as Hard Tack passing on the theme of nasty, military bread, to his son Seabiscuit.

While naming a racehorse, breeders or trainers tend to advise owners to select a personality trait that really sticks out to them and work that in a name. Some owners on the other hand will buy a horse based on its name. For instance who wouldn't want to buy a horse by the name of Empire Maker?

Another common method is naming a horse after a funny memory of the owners or even the horse itself. For example, Lost In The Fog was named after a story from the colt's earlier days. For those who don't know, race horses tend to be put into pasture with a large amount of horses their own age before they are put into training. On a foggy morning during the common chore of bringing in all the yearlings (horses one year of age) back to the barn from pasture, the handlers realized they were one colt short. After a few minutes of whistles and calls a few handlers began to search for the colt. Within a few minutes they were leading the lost yearling back to the barn. When others asked why the colt had gone missing, the handlers simply replied, "He was lost in the fog."

Connecting a horse with an owner's personal experience or their home life is another way to create a worthy name. A good example of this is Alfeet Alex. He was partly named after his owner's many children all sharing the name 'Alex' in some form.

Although you are allowed lots of creativity when it comes to naming your horse, there are some rules that The Jockey Club makes sure are followed.

Some of the more common rules are:

-The name can only be eight-teen characters long, and spaces are counted as a character.

-Horses cannot contain numbers less than or equal to twenty-five in their name to avoid announcer confusion on the track. For that same reason the words first, second, third, etc. are prohibited. Under certain circumstances number names will be considered. For example 'Eight Belles' was allowed whereas 'Forego the Second' would not be.

-Offensive or obscene names are also prohibited, although in some cases the announcer's pronunciation can make a normal name sound offensive.
In this clip, the over excited announcer turns the name Hoof Hearted into 'Who Farted'.

For more on the ins and outs of naming a thoroughbred, visit Racing NSW registration site.

Usually when I am looking for a horse to bet on, one of the first things I look for is a name that sounds like it should be called first!


  1. Hello I really enjoy this blog post. I always wondered how that they came up with names for the racing horses because they always seem to be vary random.

    I also enjoyed how you started your blog post off. It drew my attention because I was curious of what Romeo and Juliet had to do with horse racing!

    Thanks for the enlightenment! I would have been clueless without you. I thought that the video clip of “7-Hoof Hearted” was very funny. So is there any specific reason why your horse is named Vader? Or are you just a fan of the dark side?

  2. First off, thanks for the comment! I'm glad it could help you. haha.

    Although I am a fan of the Dark Side, it's not the only reason he got that name. Vader isn't actually Vader's real name. It's his barn name. When I got him his name was Barney....and that just didn't work for me....The three things that made me name him Vader were:
    1. Lord Vader is the coolest person to ever traverse the galaxy.
    2. His Birthday is May 19th...and just so happens his third birthday is when the third and final Star Wars came out.
    3. When he was young, he had awkwardly small nostrils for a horse...and when he would sounded a lot like the Dark Lord of the Sith himself.

    Thanks for reading! Thanks too for commenting!