OwnerStarsInThe Night

What’s in a Name?

14th February 2020

It’s that time of year where those owners who are involved in the unraced youngsters get their chance to put forward an idea for the official racing name of their horse. Initially this can seem a little daunting however, the process is usually quite fun and enjoyed by those in our horse racing syndicates.

So, where to begin? It is quite the task to come up with a unique name that hasn’t been registered before and one that your fellow syndicate members will approve of and hence vote for. This name will be called live to lots of racegoers at the track and many superstitious people feel a poor name can be unlucky.

The initial considerations when deciding upon a name are bound by certain restrictions. Every horse that is due to run under the rules of racing must have a name registered through the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). As the owner of an unnamed youngster this decision is a privilege for our syndicate owners, but they must think carefully, as once approved your horse has the name for life.

So, what are the guidelines you need to keep within when brainstorming names? The name you can choose is restricted to up to 18 characters including spaces. It cannot include any punctuation other than apostrophes and it must not exceed seven syllables, if only for the sake of the racecourse commentators!

There are also a few guidelines that must be abided by in order to have the name approved. You are unable to have a name which already exists or that portrays any kind of political message. Without personal permission, famous names, both dead or alive, are also likely to be rejected as are brand names.

Currently, 3,000 names are internationally protected so that they cannot be used again. Of these, Frankel is a prime example.

In addition, any name which is rude or potentially offensive will also not be accepted. This includes those names which are spelt in such a way that phonetically they will sound inappropriate when spoken.
However, there have been some names slip through the net occasionally, such as a South African horse named Hoof Hearted, which sounds rather different when said quickly!

Many people choose to use the pedigree of their horse as an indicator for selecting a name and this can prove to be a popular idea. Often a mix of the dam and the sire’s names will create something new and individual. Although the pedigree is a good starting point, sometimes choosing to take it a step further by researching what names mean, or infer, can produce even more impressive results.

There are many subtle examples of using a pedigree to come up with a clever name.
Take Geespot. Its name may have you sniggering like a school child, but the naming is actually pretty clever. By the sire Pursuit of Love and out of the mare My Discovery, you really have to admire the creativity of her naming.

Mrs Kipling, a daughter of Exceed And Excel, is more obvious but also clever and a nice nod to the cake adverts of the same name derived from the sire.

Google can be a further, helpful source of inspiration. Hambleton’s first ever two-year-old runner was named Mazzanti after an owner typed his sire’s name, Piccolo, into the search engine and learned Nicola Mazzanti was a famous piccolo player.

Horses are sometimes named after places too. Aidan O’Brien horses are often named after landmarks or even countries, such as Giant’s Causeway and Australia.

Another, rather alternative angle is to use the letters of a horse’s dam and/or sire to make a new name with the relevant letters.

You can also come up with a play on words as long as it is within the guidelines and if your name is too long with spaces, simply remove them to make it just one word such as they did for Irish Grand National winner Shutthefrontdoor.

The opportunities are endless and it is always interesting to see the names our syndicate members come up with for their youngsters. It isn’t always a clear-cut winner and often the decision goes down to the final vote.

Once the winning name is decided it is registered with the BHA before announcing it to the syndicate at their naming meal. Each horse racing syndicate will then toast the official racing name of their youngster with a glass of champagne as they excitedly discuss the future.

Naming a horse adds to the whole experience of racehorse ownership and makes that first start feel as if it is in touching distance.