the importance of names

A child, about six years old, leant on the rail over the Arlington winners’ circle.  He looked out over the course, a ticket crumpled in his left hand, as nine fillies and mares raced down the backstretch.  Greeley’s Delight, the longest shot on the board, carved out the way.  She’s Got the Mojo, far better fancied by the public, tracked along in second.

“Go, number three!”

There are seven, ten, twelve “number three” horses at every racetrack on every race day.  Number three tells you the number stamped on a plastic pill pulled out of a bottle in the racing office a few days before the race.  Number three helps the mutuel clerk punch your ticket, lets the spectator know to look for a blue saddle cloth.

“Go, number three!”

Number three says nothing about how hard the horse who wears that blue cloth fought to finish second in her last race, behind a horse who had things so easily on the lead.  It says nothing about the little spot on her blaze, or the softness of her dark bay nose as she bobs it out of her stall, snorfling for a peppermint.

“Go, number three!”

I turn to the child.

“Your horse may do a little better if you cheer for her by name.”  He looks at me, unsure, but ready to try anything that will help his horse to victory.  “Her name is She’s Got the Mojo.”

He looked back out at the race as the field races into the far turn.

“Go, Mojo!”

Greeley’s Delight’s lead, once defiant daylight, then down to a desperate neck, had evaporated.  She relinquished the lead to She’s Got the Mojo, and retreated into the chasing pack.

“Come on, Mojo!”

She’s Got the Mojo bore the hopes of so many, including one young boy at the rail, on her back.  Main Star rode the new leader’s flank through the turn, but could not keep pace down the stretch.  She’s Got the Mojo took command, carrying those hopes easily across the wire.

Names have power.

2 thoughts on “the importance of names

  1. Your writing is wonderful and stuff like this also helps the non-enthusiast understand and get what it is you love about the sport. When I read this, I feel like I’m there, and I start to get it more. (Have you considered taking all of your more “accessible” stuff and making a page with it for the newbie?)


    • i’ve never actually thought of doing that before — adding a tag, a page, for my more accessible stuff — but that is a fantastic idea. i’m putting that on my radar. thank you for the suggestion!

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