Sunday, May 25, 2003

The naming game

Dell Hancock says good horses never have bad names

By Ryan Ernst
The Cincinnati Enquirer

While at the race track, some of us bet on horses according to their gate position, others according to track conditions. Some people like to calculate speed ratings, while others are swayed by the look of a horse.

Still others can pick their winner simply by looking at the name in the racing guide. And why not? To the less-than-casual racing fan, a thoroughbred's name is the most fascinating part of the sport.

But what determines a horse's name? There's more to it than most people think.

The most common practice is to tie a yearling's name to its pedigree. For example, Funny Cide is by Distorted Humor out of Belle's Good Cide. "By" indicates the sire and "out of" indicates the mare. Humor, Cide. Get it? Now, Belle's Good Cide was by Slewacide out of Belle of Killarney. And so on and so on.

But some owners like to be different. The recent war in Iraq inspired the names Iraqi Freedom, Shock and All and Freedom Fries. The fallout from the last presidential election made fodder for the owners of Chadsanddimples, Florida Recount and Palm Beach Ballot.

So, thoroughbred names span a variety of topics and titles, but they all have a few things in common. They must all be in accordance with the Jockey Club's close to 30 rules for naming. First and foremost, horses' names must not consist of more than 18 letters. Horses may not be named after people, unless the person consents. They cannot be named after copyrighted material, "notorious" people, names of racetracks or graded stakes, anything commercial in nature or anything with a "suggestive, vulgar or obscene meaning."

John Cooney of the Jockey Club registry said about 75 percent of the names submitted are allowed. Rejected names are usually so classified because they are too close to one of the approximately 430,000 names actively in use. A case involving one of the other rules, however, sticks out in Cooney's mind.

"A few years back (1994), there was a little bit of an incident with (Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner) Tabasco Cat," he said. "Tabasco is actually a brand name made by McIlhenny. They contacted us and notified us of it. But they weren't displeased."

Really? Go figure.

It's just like Dell Hancock says, and she should know. As part of the legendary family that owns equally legendary Claiborne Farm, she has been naming horses most of her life.

"I always say you never hear of a good horse with a bad name," Hancock said. "But sometimes horses with bad names become horses with good names - once they become good horses."

Fun with horses' names

So there seem to be methods to the horse-naming madness. But what if thoroughbreds were named according simply to owner? The following is a list of Triple Crown race winners, identified with who it sounds like their owner should be.

Assault 1946 Triple Crown Marty McSorley
Behave Yourself 1921 Kentucky Derby Mrs. Larry Eustachy
Blue Man 1952 Preakness Stakes Mike Price
Colonial Affair 1993 Belmont Stakes The Thomas Jefferson Estate
Faultless 1947 Preakness Roy Jones Jr.
Foolish Pleasure 1975 Derby Hugh Grant
Hail to All 1965 Belmont Don King
Mate 1931 Preakness Wilt Chamberlin
Peter Pan 1907 Belmont Mark Cuban
Point Given 2001 Preakness and Belmont The Dallas Mavericks
Regret 1915 Derby Larry Eustachy
Ruthless 1867 Belmont Bob Ryan
Shut Out 1942 Derby and Belmont The Detroit Tigers
Spend a Buck 1985 Derby George Steinbrenner
Spendthrift 1879 Belmont Mike Brown
Sunday Silence 1989 Derby and Preakness Cincinnati Bengals Fan Club


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