There are plenty of serious and analytical things to love about horse racing, but horse racing also has facets that are just plain fun. My favourite goofy facet of horse racing is the art of the horse name.
The first time I ever went to the track I had no idea how to read a racing form, so I bet on the horses with the funniest names. I left Arlington Park with more money in my pocket than I arrived with that day, because a horse named He’s Hot Sauce (Cartwright — Zen’s Hot Sauce, by Zen) won a state-bred N2X at 7.5/1. It turns out, his female line just screams silly names: his second dam was the Sauce Boat mare Stake Sauce. Alas, the puntastically and ambitiously named Stake Sauce did not win any stakes races, though He’s Hot Sauce did win two.
Though I never (okay…almost never) bet solely based on goofy names anymore, I still thoroughly enjoy them, and tweet about them quite frequently. This is a slightly more permanent landing for the best of the best: an ongoing repository of horse names that strike my fancy.
My very favourite horse names are the ones that make a clever play based on both sides of the pedigree. They require no other explanation than those root names, and then taking a split second to let it sink in.
- Add Some Alcohol (Purim – Shirley Temper)
- Adopt Me (Street Cry – Precious Kitten)
- Awol Adam (Military – Runaway Emily A)
- Burrito (Tabasco Cat – Dinners On Me)
- C. Zee (Elusive Bluff – Diamondaire)
- Charismatic Pulpit (Pulpit – Karis Macaw, by Charismatic)
- Chide (Blame – Yell)
- Confide (Phone Trick – Bag of Tricks)
- Corrupt (Belong to Me – Taxable Deduction)
- Don’task Don’ttell (To Honor and Serve – Askbut I Won’ttell)
- Edging (Straight Line – Lawn)
- Embezzlement (Cat Thief – The Administrator)
- Flatware (Flatter – Culinary)
- Four Left Feet (Trippi – Romance Dance)
- Harassment Case (Badger Land – Cherry Tart)
- Hideous (Distorted Humor – Flatter Me)
- Istanly (Istan – Now)
- Lawyer Talk (Alleged – Jibber Jabber)
- Life in Shambles (Broken Vow – Life)
- Lion N Cheatin (Lion Hearted – Marion’s Dover)
- Lion N Cheatin was born in 2006. 2006-2007 was the heyday of the investigation into runner Marion Jones’s use of performance enhancers.)
- Misandry Mermaid (Macho Uno – Freedom Come)
- Nile High Club (Pioneerof the Nile – Skymiler)
- No Fighting (War Front – Sweet Science)
- Numbers Never Lie (Misremembered – Quarterly Report)
- Overdrawn (Charitable Man – Bank Teller)
- Praise the Kitten (Kitten’s Joy – Great Doxology)
- Skywarn (Congrats – Rising Tornado)
- Sonnet Boom (Shakespeare – Cry of the Wild)
- Stalled (Jump Start – Push My Luck)
- Storm Temple Pilot (Temple City – Launchastorm)
- Teardownthatwall (Free House – Soviet Problem)
- The Canary Lived (Cool Coal Man – Smart Lady Doc)
Even if a name does not riff on both parents, sometimes it riffs on one ancestor so well that it stands out.
- Afleet Accompli (Afleet Alex – Competition)
- A win may not necessarily be a fait accompli, but a giggle whenever this gelding shows up on the worktab or the overnight is.
- Colonial Power (Curlin – Provincial)
- The name has nothing to do with him being a Curlin baby, but the sidelong yet brutally honest take on the dam’s name works.
- Copperplate (Curlin – Verdana Bold)
- Bonus points for being a chestnut.
- D’Bunnyphone (D’Funnybone – Wanda Nevada)
- Ten points for finding the cutest spoonerism ever.
- Denoun N Deverb (Denouncer – Honey’s Connection)
- Both of this Illinois-bred multiple stakes winner’s progeny to date have been real runners: the multiple stakes winner Sasy Ms. Elizabeth, and the solid allowance contender Flying Mr K. However, I wait with bated breath for the day when a Denoun N Deverb baby has a grammar joke in their name.
- Irish You Well (Broken Vow – Pun)
- This groan-worthy wordplay works so well because Irish You Well is campaigned by Donegal Racing, who often uses Irish-themed horse names.
- Keen Ice (Curlin – Medomak)
- Despite its lack of an Irish theme, he is another Donegal horse. They named a Curlin baby after a curling term. Keen Ice is fast ice, ice on which a stone travels easily with less effort to push it. Unfortunately there were a few more obstacles in his way on Derby Day than a curling stone may encounter, but his name remains clever.
- Lebowski (First Dude – Storm Miss)
- Obvious? Maybe. But, thank goodness someone did this, and did this in her sire’s first crop. The Big Lebowski is the First Dude, after all.
- Macarthur (Charge Forward – Mozambique)
- A five star name for a Charge Forward baby.
- Sahara Toga Party (Desert Party – Tricky Move)
- Making this name even better? She is New York-bred.
- Waddle (Stroll – Fusionista)
- Waddling is the adorable antithesis of strolling.
- Wave of the Wand (Ben Bulben – A Blink and a Nod)
- This name just sounds right. It could fall right into poetry with her dam’s name. (Unrelated to her name, she also has a wonderful blaze.)
- Willa Cather (Pioneering – Mystery of Faith)
- Literary references, for the win. It’s a more clever take on sire Pioneering than going for the obvious explorer or settler name.
Some names were clearly created just to mess with track announcers; as a race call aficionado, such names amuse me greatly.
- Jimmy by a Nose (Silver Zipper – Naperville)
- He made it onto my radar when he hit the worktab in October 2014, though he did not debut until April 2015. According to trainer Chris Ryan, he got his name because of his long head. He retired (through CANTER Chicago!) in the spring of 2016, still a maiden — but a maiden with a great name, and a great nose.
- Thecoltintheback (Cayoke – Fuzzy Side Up)
- This one jumped out at me on March 24, 2015, when listening to a call at Fairmount. I was briefly confused as to why the announcer referred to “the colt in the back” but then kept calling new horses, and then figured out that was actually the name of a runner. He did not bring up the rear; he came up the rail for fourth in a field of nine.
- Yakahickamickadola (Kamehameha – Sony Gay)
- He may have been a bit before my time, but fortunately Tom Durkin’s attempts to pronounce this name when he raced at Hialeah Park have been recorded for posterity. One night in 2013 I used “No, Tom, It’s Yakahickamickadola” as my nom de pub quiz in order to throw the quizmaster for a loop, but he pronounced it correctly on the first try.
Finally, there are the names that have nothing to do with either of the parents, but still make the racing form a happier or more interesting place.
- Coltimus Prime (Milwaukee Brew – Certainly Special)
- I figured out during his Display Stakes run in 2013 that he was a sharp racehorse…but I doubt I would have turned that race on at all if not for his excellent name.
- Hippodrome (Animo de Valeroso – Hypnosis)
- Yo, dawg, I heard you like horse racing, so I put Hippodrome in your hippodrome…
- Lisa’s Mad Again (Animo de Valeroso – Lucky Deputy)
- Nothing like an Illinois-bred horse whose name is an Illinois political reference.
- Reversiontothemean (Curlin – Jet Setter)
- I doubt I will ever know what possessed someone to name a racehorse Reversiontothemean, but as both a math person and a bastion of mediocrity, I enjoy this name thoroughly.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of excellent horse names, and will slowly grow as I discover or remember names that bear repeating.
Do you have any favourite horse names? Feel free to let me know in the comments!