How did the 2013 Kentucky Derby horses get their names?

Some owners use pedigree, while others are inspired by D-Day, a bridge or a dream

lblackford@herald-leader.comMay 4, 2013 

CHRIS WARE | STAFF — Herald-Leader

  • Naming guidelines

    For a name to be accepted by the Jockey Club, owners must abide by 15 rules, which include:

    ■ It can't be longer than 18 characters.

    ■ It can't duplicate names currently active in either racing or breeding. There's a 10-year block on any name duplication.

    ■ It can't be exactly named after a famous person, except with special permission, and names can't end in horse-related terms, like filly, colt or stud.

    ■ It can't be obscene or of vulgar use or appear to be designed to harass or humiliate.

    ■ If an owner can't come up with a name, the Jockey Club has an emergency list of names from which an owner can choose.

    ■ If an owner likes a name but isn't set on giving it to a specific horse, the owner can pay $75 to reserve the name for one year.

    ■ Once an owner has picked a name, he or she can register, naming that horse for life.

    ■ The naming process can be completed in 24 hours.

    ■ Names go through a phonetic system and are reviewed by the staff at the Jockey Club to check for any mistakes in the name.

There's a distinctly militaristic theme to this year's Kentucky Derby field, with names like Revolutionary, Lines of Battle, Java's War, Normandy Invasion, even Will Take Charge.

Possibly coincidence, possibly due to the fact that these colts were named two to three years ago, when the U.S. was still embroiled in overseas conflicts.

"Current events do affect the names of horses," said Shannon Luce, spokeswoman for the Jockey Club, which registers all Thoroughbreds and monitors the rules for naming them. After the 2000 presidential election, for example, there were several horses with the word "chad" in their names, including Hanging Chads.

Naming racehorses needs all the inspiration it can get, given the strict rules: no famous people without special permission, nothing bawdy (although some slip through), and hardest of all, nothing that's already been taken. There are about 450,000 names in the Jockey Club database already.

Luckily, technology is lending a hand — all of those names are online, and there's an app so you can look them up on your phone. That includes a database of recently released names that are up for grabs again.

That's actually how Normandy Invasion got named. In 1994, Rick Porter had traveled to France for the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

"We spent several days seeing all the military stuff, the beaches and the cemeteries and the cliffs," he said. "We were overwhelmed by seeing the details of the history of D-Day, how it was all developed and the way it was built."

He thought Normandy Invasion was a great name for a racehorse, but it was already taken. Several years later, "I checked it again, and it was available," he said. "I'm a very patriotic person, we were looking for something special with Normandy, and it turned out to be a great name."

Many of the military names this year meet the old, gold standard for naming horses, using their pedigree. Java's War, for example, is by War Pass and out of Java; Revolutionary is by War Pass and out of Runup the Colors; and Lines of Battle is by War Front.

The pedigree accounts for other names this year such as current favorite Orb, who is by Malibu Moon.

Palace Malice is out of Palace Rumor, and Will Take Charge is out of Take Charge Lady.

Golden Soul's sire is Perfect Soul, and his dam is Hollywood Gold. Goldencents' dam is Golden Works, and her sire is Banker's Gold. Mylute's sire is Midnight Lute. Giant Finish is both a good description of how every owner hopes their horse will win, and a nice play on sire and dam: by Frost Giant and out of Apocalyptic.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey of Jessamine County own a stallion named Kitten's Joy. The Ramseys use the kitten theme in naming many of their horses, and this year's Charming Kitten is no exception.

Some owners ignore the pedigree altogether and choose something more personal. David Wilkenfield's horse Vyjack was named for his parents Vivienne and Jack, according to the Associated Press.

Falling Sky is also named, in a roundabout way, for someone's father. Joe Appelbaum of Off the Hook Farm in Ocala, Fla., bought Falling Sky as a weanling for a Venezuelan horseman named Calixto Armas. Armas' father had died recently, and he bought the horse in his memory, and named it Blessing or Falling from Heaven. Because heaven and sky are both cielo in Spanish, the name got very roughly translated into Falling Sky. "It's really like his dad is in heaven and giving him blessings in Spanish," Appelbaum said.

After an impressive debut, Falling Sky was sold as a 2-year-old to his current owners, the partnership of James Covello, Joseph Bulger and Newtown Anner Stud.

Verrazano is the bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn. The Staten Island Advance reported that one of the horse's owners, Kevin Scatuorchio, often takes a ferry from his New Jersey home to Manhattan and travels under the Verrazano Bridge. One day he looked up and thought it would make a great name.

Another owner, Mike Repole, has used business to influence his naming before. Repole, the man who started VitaminWater, owned Stay Thirsty, a horse that ran in the 2011 Derby. In various press accounts, Repole has said Overanalyze is his style in business and with horses, asking lots of questions and getting lots of information. Repole is now the chairman of Pirate's Booty and Energy Kitchen, a chain of health-food restaurants.

Frac Daddy is also connected to the owners' work. Ken Schlenker and Carter Stewart are in the oil and gas business in Montana and North Dakota. Their horse's sire was Scat Daddy, and fracking is a big part of their business, so the name made sense.

"We tried to have a play on words and dedicate it to the oil field people," said Schlenker, who gave credit to Carter. "It's really caught on out here, especially in the last couple of weeks."

Marion Montanari, co-owner of Itsmyluckyday, doesn't know who named the horse, as they bought him as a 2-year-old. But she loves the name and says "it was a lucky day when we bought him." She and the other owners, David and Olga Melin, had hats and shirts with the horse's name made up, and only occasionally do they have to explain they're talking about a horse.

Some names remain mysteries. Oxbow is named for a bend in a river, but a Calumet Farm representative said no one in the organization knew why the name was chosen by the famously reclusive owner, Brad Kelley.

There's a distinctly militaristic theme to this year's Kentucky Derby field, with names like Revolutionary, Lines of Battle, Java's War, Normandy Invasion, even Will Take Charge.

Possibly coincidence, possibly due to the fact that these colts were named two to three years ago, when the U.S. was still embroiled in overseas conflicts.

"Current events do affect the names of horses," said Shannon Luce, spokeswoman for the Jockey Club, which registers all Thoroughbreds and monitors the rules for naming them. After the 2000 presidential election, for example, there were several horses with the word "chad" in their names, including Hanging Chads.

Naming racehorses needs all the inspiration it can get, given the strict rules: no famous people without special permission, nothing bawdy (although some slip through), and hardest of all, nothing that's already been taken. There are about 450,000 names in the Jockey Club database already.

Luckily, technology is lending a hand — all of those names are online, and there's an app so you can look them up on your phone. That includes a database of recently released names that are up for grabs again.

That's actually how Normandy Invasion got named. In 1994, Rick Porter had traveled to France for the 50th anniversary of D-Day.

"We spent several days seeing all the military stuff, the beaches and the cemeteries and the cliffs," said. "We were overwhelmed by seeing the details of the history of D-Day, how it was all developed and the way it was built."

He thought Normandy Invasion was a great name for a racehorse, but it was already taken. Several years later, "I checked it again, and it was available," he said. "I'm a very patriotic person, we were looking for something special with Normandy, and it turned out to be a great name."

Many of the military names this year meet the old, gold standard for naming horses, using their pedigree. Java's War, for example is by War Pass and out of Java; Revolutionary is by War Pass and out of Runup the Colors; and Lines of Battle is by War Front.

The pedigree accounts for many of the other names this year as well. Current favorite Orb is by Malibu Moon; Black Onyx, a stone used to make knives in ancient times, is by Rock Hard Ten, and happens to be nearly black in color.

Palace Malice is out of Palace Rumor, and Will Take Charge is out of Take Charge Lady.

Golden Soul's sire is Perfect Soul, and his dam is Hollywood Gold. Goldencents' dam is Golden Works, and her sire is Banker's Gold. Mylute's sire is Midnight Lute. Giant Finishis both a good description of how every owner hopes their horse will win, and a nice play on sire and dam: by Frost Giant and out of Apocalyptic.

Ken and Sarah Ramsey of Jessamine County own a stallion named Kitten's Joy. The Ramseys use the kitten theme in naming many of their horses, and this year's Charming Kitten is no exception.

Some owners ignore the pedigree altogether and choose something more personal. David Wilkenfield's horse Vyjack was named for his parents Vivienne and Jack, according to the Associated Press.

Falling Sky is also named, in a roundabout way, for someone's father. Joe Appelbaum of Off the Hook Farm in Ocala, bought Falling Sky as a weanling for a Venezuelan horseman named Calixto Armas. Armas' father had died recently, and he bought the horse in his memory, and named it Blessing or Falling from Heaven. Because heaven and sky are both cielo in Spanish, the name got very roughly translated into Falling Sky. "It's really like his dad is in heaven and giving him blessings in Spanish," Appelbaum said.

After an impressive debut, Falling Sky was sold as a two-year-old to his current owners, the partnership of James Covello, Joseph Bulger and Newtown Anner Stud.

Verrazano is the bridge that connects Staten Island and Brooklyn. The Staten Island Advance reported that one of the horse's owners, Kevin Scatuorchio, often takes a ferry from his New Jersey home to Manhattan and travels under the Verrazano Bridge. One day he looked up and thought it would make a great name.

Another owner, Mike Repole, has used business to influence his naming before. Repole, the man who started VitaminWater, owned Stay Thirsty, a horse that ran in the 2011 Derby. In various press accounts, Repole has said Overanalyze is his style in business and with horses, asking lots of questions and getting lots of information. Repole is now the chairman of Pirate's Booty and Energy Kitchen, a chain of health-food restaurants.

Frac Daddy is also connected to the owners' work. Ken Schlenker and Carter Stewart are in the oil and gas business in Montana and North Dakota. Their horse's sire was Scat Daddy, and fracking is a big part of their business, so the name made sense.

"We tried to have a play on words and dedicate it to


Naming guidelines

For a name to be accepted by the Jockey Club, owners must abide by 15 rules, which include:

■ It can't be longer than 18 characters.

■ It can't duplicate names currently active in either racing or breeding. There's a 10-year block on any name duplication.

■ It can't be exactly named after a famous person, except with special permission, and names can't end in horse-related terms, like filly, colt or stud.

■ It can't be obscene or of vulgar use or appear to be designed to harass or humiliate.

■ If an owner can't come up with a name, the Jockey Club has an emergency list of names from which an owner can choose.

■ If an owner likes a name but isn't set on giving it to a specific horse, the owner can pay $75 to reserve the name for one year.

■ Once an owner has picked a name, he or she can register, naming that horse for life.

■ The naming process can be completed in 24 hours.

■ Names go through a phonetic system and are reviewed by the staff at the Jockey Club to check for any mistakes in the name.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford.

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