Find out how all of the 2014 Kentucky Derby horses got their names

lblackford@herald-leader.comMay 2, 2014 

  • 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, such as 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.

Naming your racehorse can be hard.

First, you have to make sure no other Thoroughbred is using it, and you'd be surprised how often that is. Most of the time, people like to reflect their horse's most esteemed forebears. Or sometimes, there's just that perfect name that sums up a time or emotion.

That's the story of Wicked Strong, who, as one news account described, has all of New England rooting for him. He's named for the people of Boston after last year's Boston Marathon bombing. The horse is owned by Centennial Farms, a syndicate created by Don Little Jr. of Boston. The New York Daily News reported that Little had planned on changing the horse's original name, Moyne Spun, when the bombings occurred. The syndicate partners agreed to donate 1 percent of the horse's earnings to the One Fund to aid bombing victims, and they will increase the donation to 5 percent for Triple Crown races.

Other people might try a combination of ancestry and the personal.

Take Harry's Holiday, a son of Harlan's Holiday.

One of the horse's owners, Harvey Diamond of Louisville, said Harry was the name of his "dear departed uncle in Cincinnati," and the middle name of his wife's late father.

"So we took them and sent them on a holiday together," Diamond said.

He enjoys the naming process. Three years ago, he and his partner Jim Shircliff were having a drink at Churchill Downs, celebrating the purchase of a promising young colt. They were staring at the video screen, which said, "Brought to you by Twinspires.com, Churchill's online betting company."

"Jim looked at me and said, I think I've been Twinspired," Diamond said, and there was the name. (Twinspired ran 17th in the 2011 Kentucky Derby and is now retired to stud.)

We Miss Artie is sired by Artie Schiller, but owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey also named him in memory of a cousin's husband who had recently died. Most of the Ramseys' horses are easy to pick out because so many of them have a Kitten in the name because of their stallion, Kitten's Joy.

The Ramseys have a second horse in the race, Vicar's in Trouble, which has a more traditional name derived from its sire, Into Mischief, and its dam, Vibrant, who is by Vicar.

Some horses get a personal touch without any reference to its forebears.

Medal Count is named for Spendthrift Farm owner B. Wayne Hughes' alma mater, the University of Southern California, according to Spendthrift manager Ned Toffey. That school has more Olympic medal-winning students and alumni than most. "Mr. Hughes is a very proud alum," Toffey said.

General a Rod is by Roman Ruler, but then his previous owner named the horse for himself, not any famous baseball players. Last week, J. Armando Rodriguez sold the horse to Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing. Skychai Racing is the syndicate of Diamond and Shircliff.

The favorite, California Chrome, is a California-bred chestnut with lots of white markings on his legs and face, sometimes known as chrome. In interviews, the two owners said their wives pulled the name out of a hat.

Commanding Curve is owned by West Point Thoroughbreds. Founder Terry Finley is a West Point graduate with a long military career; one of his other horses, Ring Weekend, was named for the spring weekend when West Point cadets receive their rings, but Ring Weekend was pulled out of Derby contention. Finley let one of his partners, James Perry of Dallas, name Commanding Curve. Perry loves baseball and came up with the name, which has a nice nod to the horse's sire, Master Command.

"Every once in a while, we have a significant partner and we let them do the naming," Finley said. "It is an interesting thing. ... A lot of names are already taken, and a good portion of the time, you have to submit a couple of names to get one through."

It's a lot easier now that the Jockey Club has an online naming registry, which allows owners to check the current names in use.

Chitu is owned by Susan Chu and the Tanma Corp. Chu is a native of Taiwan, and her horse is named for one of China's greatest racehorses, Chu said in a news release. Trainer Bob Baffert trains Chitu, along with another Derby horse who was pulled out on Wednesday, Hoppertunity. Baffert told the Herald-Leader that he changed that horse's name from Anyway U Way.

"There was a friend of (Baffert's wife) Jill named Kathleen Hopper, and her and her husband were trying to have a baby, and I think she had a miscarriage or something and they said 'We missed another Hoppertunity.' They said that would be a good name for a horse," Baffert said.

Vinceremos was named by Rebecca Walden, wife of Winstar CEO Elliott Walden, who heard the Latin word in church and wrote it down, Vinceremos means "to conquer."

Uncle Sigh is named for Uncle Si Robertson of the TV show Duck Dynasty.

Then there are the names that take directly from their sires and dams. Ride On Curlin, for example, is by Curlin out of Magical Ride. Intense Holiday is by Harlan's Holiday out of Intensify. Dance with Fate is by Two Step Salsa and out of Flirting with Fate.

Other names can be more inspired by sire and dam, instead of quoting it directly.

Danza is by Street Boss, but the name plays on the TV show Who's the Boss? which starred Tony Danza for many years. Tony Danza is expected in Louisville to watch his namesake run.

Samraat is a word for an Indian noble, and he's out of a mare called Little Indian Girl who is herself by Indian Charlie.

Wildcat Red is by D'Wildcat, plus he's a deep bay color that his owner said looked red in the light.

Candy Boy is by Candy Ride.

Tapiture is by the highly successful stallion Tapit.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford. Alicia Wincze Hughes contributed to this story.

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