Is it easier to name a child than a horse? Victor Espinoza aboard American Pharoah celebrates winning the 141st Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs (Jamie Rhodes, USA TODAY Sports / AP photo)
Is it easier to name a child than a horse?
Lexile

Coming up with a clever name for a racehorse can be a challenge and not just creatively.

While parents simply put their choice of names for their child on a birth certificate and are done, registering a thoroughbred foal is not so easy.

The owners can submit up to six choices in order of preference to The Jockey Club in the registration process. Similar to choosing an online password, the name can't exceed 18 characters. It must be available and comply with a lengthy list of guidelines.

And that's before it receives the blessing of The Jockey Club. Last year, it approved an estimated 26,000 of 36,500 names submitted.

The odds seem to be in an owner's favor, but that doesn't make it easy.

"The reason we have such quality control is to make things very clear to the layman, to the stakeholder, to a trainer, to a bettor," The Jockey Club manager of registration services Andrew Chesser said. "You want to avoid confusion. Especially when you're talking about two particular horses that can be racing at the same time and breeding at the same time."

Chesser couldn't explain the 18-character limit other than it being the worldwide standard and added, "18 has just always seemed to work."

Some horses' names feature a combination of its sire (father) and dam (mother) or the damsire (mom's father). Others such as 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister are more creative: That colt was named after Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's son, Bode.

"You try to come up with a name you just might like," said Dallas Stewart, who trains Tale of Verve. "It's OK to be a little crazy with them. After all, it's your horse."

Owners can submit a name for free until Feb. 1 of the second year after the horse is born, then there's a $100 charge. Names can also be reserved.

The Jockey Club's list of exclusions is long and detailed. Triple Crown winners or any series race are permanently protected from duplication. Triple Crown winners have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year.

That's just fine by Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, who proudly said of the legendary 1973 Triple Crown champion, "There's only one Secretariat."

Here is a look at the backstories of the names of several entrants in the 140th Preakness, which took place on May 16.

AMERICAN PHAROAH: You might notice that his surname is a misspelling of the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh, a role made famous onscreen by Yul Brynner in "The Ten Commandments." Owner Ahmed Zayat, a native of Egypt who wanted a horse reflective of his culture, originally blamed The Jockey Club for the typo. The name was misspelled when it was submitted by a woman who won an online contest run by the family and the Zayats didn't catch it. No worries, since the horse has made a name for himself with his Derby and Preakness victories. He will try for the Triple Crown title June 6 at Belmont.

DANZIG MOON: Norman Casse, who helps his father, Mark, in training the horse, laughs as he explains this name as "pretty straightforward." His first name derives from his damsire, Danzig, his last name from sire Malibu Moon. Whether heavy metal band Danzig inspired the name is unclear. But its use has generated a social media cult following and Boston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub recently played a game asking, "Is it a race horse or a bad local band?"

BODHISATTVA: The Buddhist term means someone who is enlightened and delays reaching Nirvana in order to save others. It'll be interesting to see if the California-bred colt is that selfless with his fellow horses if he's leading in the stretch. Extra credit for pronouncing the name correctly on the first try: (boh-dee-SAHT'-vah).

TALE OF VERVE: Another easy one. Owner Charles Fipke likes to pass horses' names down the line. This one derives from sire Tale of Ekati and dam Verve, whose damsire is 1990 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Unbridled.

MR. Z: Zayat's children submitted the name in honor of their father, who just sold the horse to Calumet Farm. Another son of Malibu Moon and trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, the chestnut colt looked to rebound from his 13th-place Derby finish. He was a longshot in the Preakness where he finished fifth.

Critical thinking challenge: Why might someone want to use the name of a previous Triple Crown winner?

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COMMENTS (4)
  • kalleer-bro
    9/08/2015 - 09:25 a.m.

    this was a great article, i learned that it is not so easy picking a name for a horse.

  • noah2014-Sch
    9/15/2015 - 01:25 p.m.

    i thought that it would simply be the struggle of thinking up of a cool name for your horse

    it turned out there was a limit to the amount of letters in the name 18 is the limit and many just mix the father and the mothers name to get an easy name that everybody agrees with

  • Eugene0808-YYCA
    9/15/2015 - 09:42 p.m.

    Wow, it is not easy to name a horse because there are a lot of names that have been used in the past so you have to be very creative and very open-minded. But, why does there have to be a $100 fee when submitting names after the horse is 2 years old? That is very weird.
    Critical thinking challenge: Why might someone want to use the name of a previous Triple Crown winner?
    Answer: Someone might want to use the name of a previous Triple Crown Winner because it has a meaning and using it would help them be more confident.

  • Eric0221-YYCA
    4/13/2016 - 11:10 p.m.

    The Jockey Club people might have been having a very difficult time thinking up a name of the horse that the Jockey Club racer had gotten which naming a child is easier than having to name a horse. The people might have been able to name their horse but they would need to change it after it had been named after another person or another child that had they know about and name their horse. The Jockey Club racers might have been having a very hard time trying to think up of another name so that they can be able to use the name on the horse which they would race with. People might have been able to name a horse by following the rules that the Jockey Club had been using in order for them to be naming their horse before using their horse in the Jockey Club.
    Critical Thinking Question: Why might someone want to use the name of a previous Triple Crown winner?
    Answer: Because someone would like to use the name of a previous Triple Crown Winner if they don't know which name to use on their horse.

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