Practical Joker, Irap, Always Dreaming–these are only a few of the thoroughbred racehorses preparing to compete in the 2017 Kentucky Derby. They’re the best of the best, and some of the most interesting things about them are their names. Racehorse names are known for being both creative and poetic—My Wife Knows Everything and Flat Fleet Feet are examples—but there’s more to the name game than coming up with something clever.
The Jockey Club is the governing organization that reigns over all horse racing, and they have strict rules about what horse owners can and cannot name their competitors. Here are a few examples.
#1 – Names cannot exceed 18 characters including spaces
Racehorse names seem long when you compare them to the average dog or cat, but they could be a lot worse. Riding Miss Daisy barely makes the cut, and Nosupeforyou only works by leaving out the spaces.
#2 – Naming after a person requires written consent
It doesn’t matter whether the person is a celebrity or a family member, written consent must be included in the naming application and submitted to The Jockey Club. That means Hugh Hefner, who raced in the early 2000s, had to be approved by the Playboy proprietor himself.
#3 – Names may not end in any horse-related term
This means words like “stallion,” “mare,” and “filly” are out, but only if they’re at the end of the name. Black Stallion is off limits, but StudMuffin and Filly Cheesesteak are fair game.
# 4 – Names can’t be all numbers
There are, of course, ways around this rule. Whoever came up with Ocho Ocho Ocho figured it out. A subset of this rule also dictates that numbers over 30 must be completely spelled out.
#5 – No names of races or racetracks
This is undoubtedly the reason why there’s no Preakness Princess or Belmont Beauty on the roster.
The 20 horses that made it to the track for this year’s Run for the Roses all have creative names, each with their own story. The popular contender McCracken is set at 9:1 odds to take home the title. His name is inspired by a town in Kansas, giving him the best built-in fan club.
One of McCracken’s biggest competitors is the three-year-old colt, Always Dreaming. Co-owner Anthony Bonomo says his wife picked the name because, “That’s what you have to do everyday, especially in this business.” Bonomo and his fellow owners are dreaming of a Kentucky Derby title for their prized racehorse.
There are hundreds of thousands of registered racehorses, but only 20 will get a chance at one of the country’s most sought-after titles. Whose name will follow American Pharaoh in the history of horse racing?
Featured Image via McCracken Saddles & Tack