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Hey Matt:

Why all the goofy names for race horses? They've got names like Harlan's Holiday, Essence of Dubai, Itsallinthechase, etc. Why not Blacky or Mr. Ed or Wildfire?

--Pete Collins, San Diego

Rich people make them up. It's one of the fun things you get to do when you have a lot of money. Examples of the madcap sense of humor of your average millionaire. Thoroughbreds are usually named by their owners, according to a spokesfilly from the Jockey Club, where all thoroughbreds' names must be registered before they can race in California. There are only three rules to follow; after that, the sky's the limit. Names may contain a maximum of 18 characters, including the spaces between words and any punctuation. As a result, Hillaryscircuspony, a recent entry at Hollywood Park, has no room for the possessive apostrophe. Second, you can't name your horse Amalgamated Coat Hangers to get free publicity for your corporation. No commercial names allowed. One lady found this out when she tried to register her horse Snickers. She just thought name was cute. No, no, said the Jockey Club, it's a candy bar. So Snickers had to race under some other name. And finally, if you want to name a horse after some living person, you need that person's written approval. There was a filly on the circuit named Tina Turner, but only because Tina said it was okay. Some names are a combination of the names of the horse's parents (Slewofemptypockets). Or perhaps relatives of the owner. Delightful Doris honors an owner's wife. You have plenty of time to think these things up when you're rich enough to own race horses.

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