You’ve bought or bred your yearling, and it’s at the breaker’s or spelling in the paddock. Now you can begin to think about the enjoyable - and occasionally frustrating - business of naming your racehorse.
Be prepared for a lengthy process, especially if you must consult with a number of co-owners. Ideally, cleverness, decency, pronunciation and availability should be taken into account. Sometimes, though, horses are named in a hurry, just before they race; or, like the Australian racehorse Century, after 99 names have been turned down by the registration authorities. If all else fails, a long and well-lubricated party is sure to produce a list of names, although they are unlikely to be strong on decency.
We like to think that the care taken over naming horses is rewarded by racetrack success but history tells us otherwise. Bonecrusher appears to have been no more than descriptive of his best ability as a young horse. Rough Habit was by Roughcast from Certain Habit – not hard to come up with that one. Veandercross (Crossways-Lavender) was a merger of his parental names that worked better than most. Sunline (Desert Sun-Songline) was finally named in some desperation by part-owner Helen Lusty after the partnership’s earlier choice "Lyric" was unavailable.
On the other hand, some names turn out to be eerily appropriate. Owner Leicester Spring named Rising Fast after a headline in a farmers' newspaper and it turned out to be perfect for the stayer who rose rapidly to champion status in the spring of 1954. Ethereal matches the manner in which the mare herself seemed to descend from the clouds to snatch victory. Might And Power had plenty of might and a lot of power. The diamond-related names of the Eight Carat clan (Diamond Lover, Mouawad, Marquise, Octagonal, Kaapstad and now De Beers) nicely evoke the riches they’ve earned. Emancipation was perfect for a stroppy mare who could trounce the boys at their own game. (Her grandson Railings is cleverly named to echo that theme: the suffragettes were famous for chaining themelves to railings!)
Patriotically named Kiwi produced the definitive New Zealand staying performance in the 1983 Melbourne Cup. Saintly combined with born-again Christian Darren Beadman to achieve glory. The great Russian dancer Nijinsky apparently said he would be reincarnated in the form of a horse and the career of the horse uncannily reflected the triumph and the tragedy of his namesake.
Certain owners and breeders use themes and styles of names that make their horses instantly recognisable. Lohnro, Viscount, Dracula, Over, Flavour, Hire and Lease could hardly have been raced by anyone except Australian owner-breeders Bob & the late Jack Ingham, whose horses are famous for their catchy, clever single-word names.
After The Pixie, The Fantasy and The Twinkle, the Dennis brothers of Southland went all around the face to come up with The Dimple, The Wink, The Frown, The Grin, and The Cheek. Purchasers of their horses have maintained "The" tradition, naming two outstanding performers The Phantom and The Phantom Chance; and now a very promising two-year-old, named simply The One.
Many of the great foundation broodmare Eulogy's descendants bear names with related meanings: Epitaph, Fulsome, Homage, Commendation, Praise, Rejoice and Elegy.
Froth, Horlicks, Bubble and Brew belong to the family made famous by the Lowrys of Okawa Stud. Terry Jarvis’ love of golf is evident in Hill Of Grace and Winged Foot. Peter & Philip Velas' appreciation of fine wine is expressed in Richebourg, Coutet, Romanee Conti, Romanee St Vivant and Grand Echezeaux.
The Camelot names of Windsor Park Stud include Eustaci, Nimue, Blanchard and Niniane and the "Belle" family is forever associated with owner-breeders the Sartens, their daughter Marie Leicester and many wonderful horses: Star Belle, Tri Belle, Delightful Belle and more recently Belle Du Jour.
Ron and Fran Dixon have done well using the names of Greek gods and demi-gods: Hades, Cronus and Tethys. Gary and Lyn Witters’ broodmare Foreign Copy’s progeny include Pravda and Reuters, named after international news agencies.
The ancestral connections of owners, breeders and trainers often supply good names, with Irish and Scottish names especially favoured, for example McGinty, Castletown and Saint Cecile.
Superstitious New Zealand and Australian owners like to recall the memory of the greatest of them all, Phar Lap, by using only seven-letter names. Co-incidentally or otherwise, several other big names have seven letters: Carbine, Tulloch, Galilee, Dulcify, Leilani, Beau Zam, and Sunline. Staring (pronounced "Starring") is another example and the talisman worked for her too: she won eight races including the New Zealand Oaks G1.
Racegoers always enjoy names that draw on the meanings of the sire’s and/or dam’s names in an original or humorous way. My all-time favourite is the 1932 mare Quashed (by Obliterate from Verdict) but there are many other excellent past and present examples: Wakeful (from Insomnia), Light Fingers (by Le Filou, which is French for "thief", from Cuddlesome), Braless (Showoff II-Snuggles), Happiness (by Bluebird), Snap (from Crackle), Clean Bowled and Boycott (by Top Innings), Rodin (by Masterpiece), Clinton (by Casual Lies), Legal Grounds (Crown Law-Coffee), Pseudonym (We Don't Know-Pretend), Liberal (Generous-Political) and Victory Smile (ex Fluoride, a mare owned by a dentist).
The financial realities of horse-racing inspire unflattering names that don’t necessarily jinx their bearers’ careers: Courting Debt, Nobodywantsme, Freda Goodhome and No Profit are recent examples. Certain stallion names encourage innovative naming: Howbaddouwantit, Postponed, Pins and Tale Of The Cat have all inspired some creative names: Howmuchyacharging, Ifionlyhadtime, Legs, Acupuncture (PIns-Quack), and Glamour Puss.
How to name your horse:
- Your horse must be named before it can start in a race or in a qualifying trial.
- A name application form must be completed by all owners and sent to New Zealand Thoroughbred Racing.
- If you wish, you can contact NZTR before you mail the form to check whether your preferred names are available.
- Names can't exceed 18 characters, including spaces.
- A name cannot be used again until 12 years has gone by since that name last appeared in a volume of the New Zealand Stud Book.
- The names of Group One winners are protected and cannot be used again.
- If you are naming an Australian-bred horse the name must also be approved by the Australian Jockey Club.
- When a name is approved a Certificate of Registration is issued and must be produced for the Stipendiary Stewards' inspection on the day of the horse's first raceday start. It will be signed and returned and should be retained by the owners as it will be needed for subsequent changes of ownership.