Last updated: October 3, 2023
Have you read a racing form and wondered why owners give their horses such weird names? I decided to do some research on horse racing to find out why racehorses have such goofy names.
Racehorse names are weird because they must comply with strict naming regulations. The requirements inevitably lead owners to stretch their imagination; for example, Thoroughbred names can’t exceed 18 characters, be offensive, or be the same as former grade I Stakes winners.
Many spectators likely think owners come up with weird names to draw attention to their horses. But the truth is there is a lot that goes into naming a horse, and sometimes, you are left with only weird choices.
How horses end up with strange names.
Before a horse can be named, the owner must submit the proposed name to its governing body for approval. Many horse owners will provide multiple names because of the limitations of acceptable names.
Provided below is a list of rules for naming a horse from the governing authorities for both Thoroughbreds and Quarter-horses. As you can surmise from a review of the regulations, a person has to push their creative limits to find a fitting name for their horse.
Thoroughbred naming rules.
The Jockey Club establishes the rules for naming horses in the thoroughbred racing world. Following is a list of their “not eligible” for use in the naming of thoroughbred racehorses:
- Names consisting of more than 18 letters (spaces and punctuation marks count as letters);
- Names consisting entirely of initials such as C.O.D., F.O.B., etc.
- Names ending in “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare,” “stallion,” or any similar horse-related term;
- Names consist entirely of numbers. Numbers above thirty may be used if they are spelled out;
- Names ending with a numerical designation such as “2nd” or “3rd,” whether or not such a designation is spelled out;
- Names of living persons unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club;
- Names of persons no longer living unless approval is granted by The Jockey Club based upon a satisfactory written explanation submitted to the Registrar;
- Names of racetracks or graded stakes races;
- Names clearly having commercial, artistic, or creative significance;
- Names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political, or ethnic groups;
- Names that appear to be designed to harass, humiliate, or disparage a specific individual, group of individuals, or entity;
- Names that are currently active either in racing or breeding (see Rule6(E));
- Names of winners in the past 25 years of grade one stakes races;
- Permanent names. The list of criteria to establish a permanent name is as follows: a. Horses in racing’s Hall of Fame;
b. Horses that have been voted Horse of the Year;
c. Horses that have won an Eclipse Award;
d. Horses that have won a Sovereign Award (Canadian Champions);
e. Annual leading sire and broodmare sire by progeny earnings;
f. Cumulative money winners of $2 million or more;
g. Horses that have won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont Stakes, The Jockey Club Gold Cup, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, or the Breeders’ Cup Turf; and
h. Horses included in the International List of Protected Names.
- Names similar in spelling or pronunciation to the classes of names listed in Rule 6(F) 6 – 14 above.
- Names of horses previously recorded in The American Stud Book by the same sire or out of the same dam as the foal for which the attempt is made.
- Names of horses appearing within the first five generations of the pedigree of the foal for which the attempt is made.https://www.registry.jockeyclub.com G. In addition to the provisions of Rule 6, the Registrar of The Jockey Club reserves the right of approval on all name requests.
Quarter-horse naming rules.
Quarterhorse rules are not quite as extensive. But coming up with a new name can always be tricky; there are 5 million quarter horses in the American Quarter horse registry. Following is a list of rules for naming a Quarter Horse.
- REG103.1 The name must not exceed 20 characters, including letters, numbers, and blank spaces.
- REG103.2 Arabic numerals are permitted as a suffix.
- REG103.3 Punctuation marks are not permitted.
- REG103.4 A name may be reused if all of the following criteria are met by the horse originally issued the name:
- REG103.4.1 is deceased, as evidenced by AQHA records;
- REG103.4.2 does not have a performance record (show or race);
- REG103.4.3 has not received any AQHA special achievement recognition award or alliance recognition that appears on AQHA records as an award;
- REG103.4.4 does not have offspring with a performance record (show or race) nor any AQHA special achievement recognition award or alliance recognition that appears on AQHA records as an award;
- REG103.4.5 does not have to produce or get younger than 10 years of age.
- REG103.5 A name may be reserved for a period of one year from the date AQHA receives a written reservation request and the applicable non-refundable fee. Should the name not be used within that time period, the name will be released without further notice by AQHA unless, prior to the expiration of the reservation, the name is reserved again for another one-year period per the procedure immediately above. https://www.aqha.com
What if you want to change your horse’s name? Racehorse names can be changed so long as your horse has not ever started a race and the new name meets the initial requirements.
Memorable Racehorse Names
Everyone wants a good name for their racehorse. A name that will stand out and be significant, but because of the limitations outlined in the rules, naming a horse has become a form of art. Let’s look at some of the more memorable names in horseracing.
Racehorse names: Lineage
Lineage names are horse names referencing their pedigree in the title. I like these names best:
- Inside Information, the offspring of a stallion called Private Account and a mare called Pure Profit,
- Sticky G.I. is a foal by Lost Soldier and out of SuperGlued.
- Danzing Candy by Twirling Candy, whose dam is House of Danzing. There are many others I could list but this should give you the gist.
Funny Racehorse names
Funny-sounding names. Some people name their horses to play to the racing fans and announcers; the following are some of the all-time best:
- The thoroughbred named Bodacious Tatas is a good example. Can you imagine the announcer yelling, “here comes Bodacious Tatas down the stretch,” or
- “Whatamichoppedliver moving up the middle”?
- ARRRRR, another excellent racehorse name; it must have been fun to hear the announcer scream here comes “ARRRRR, ARRRRRR, ARRRRRRRR!!!”
Funny horse names. Finally, there is the owner who provides some levity to naming a horse.
- One of the all-time best is Hoof Hearted. Try saying this name fast.
- There is also Where’s the Beef,
- Odor in the Court, and
- Panty Raid.
Some could have been included in other categories as well; Where’s the Beef could also be pop culture, and Odor in the Court was sired by Judge Smells, so could have been included in the lineage group.
Racehorse names: Pop culture
Owners will also look to pop culture for inspiration.
- Brangelina– A play on Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie,
- Lewinsky, of the Bill Clinton fiasco, and
- Nosupeforyou is a nod to the Jerry Seinfeld soup nazi episode.
Racehorse names: Traditional
There are other owners who like to keep a tradition for naming their horses, either by using one-word names or using names of cities or family members. And some owners will name a horse because of his personality.
John Henry had a habit of roughly tearing up his metal feed and water buckets, so his owner named him after John Henry, the famous steel-driving man who worked on the railroad.
Racehorse names: Proper person
Horses can also be named after people. If the person is living, then permission from that person must be given to the owner. Famously, Barbara Bush provided a note to the Jockey Club allowing her name to be used for the naming of a racehorse.
Other than the breeding of a horse, people love the names of horses, so choose wisely. Once you have purchased your racehorse, your next mission is to find the right name.
As you now know, there is a lot that goes into naming a horse. You must keep it under 18 letters, not be offensive; the name can’t be previously used, and on and on…With these rules in mind, can you come up with a name for a horse? It’s not easy.
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Meet Miles Henry
An avid equestrian and seasoned racehorse owner, Miles Henry brings his extensive experience to the equine world, proudly associating with the AQHA, The Jockey Club, and various other equine organizations. Beyond the racetrack, Miles is an accomplished author, having published various books about horses, and is a recognized authority in the field, with his work cited in multiple publications.
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