A Horse By Any Other Name

I don’t really like horse racing. I grew up a stone’s throw from Saratoga Springs, where every summer horse racing takes center stage. While others looked forward to the opening of the race track every summer, I tended to dread it as that also meant that a large influx of tourists were to descend on the area and it was going to take longer to get around the city and impossible to find parking. It just didn’t seem fair – there was finally stuff to do around town, but now you had to compete with a lot of other people to enjoy it. I worked in a local hotel as a chambermaid one summer and while the majority of the people I came in contact were very nice, there was also a certain segment of the horse racing fan population who made going to work not a lot of fun. They were rude, demanding and expected special treatment. I did, however, get to clean George Steinbrenner’s room, which made the whole summer worth it (though I never did get to meet him).

None of this would matter if I liked going to the track, but it never held much interest for me. My parents aren’t gamblers, so we never went unless it was for something work related. And the race track was more of the same – very crowded and hard to get around. The few times I did go, I thought it was pretty boring. There was too much time between races and it was difficult to see the actual race so you wound up watching it on monitors, which defeated the whole point of going to the track in my mind. There is also a weird class system at the track – the people who have money tend to congregate in one section and the people who don’t tend to hang out in the back. And even before I became a big softie when it comes to animals, I was bothered by the idea of horse racing. The way that the jockeys whipped the horse to make them run faster made me uncomfortable. It just didn’t seem particularly humane. For a long time, I was over the whole thing and summer after summer I would avoid going to the track.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve mellowed a little on my stance. Horse racing is important to some people who are important to me, so I’ve learned to feign a least a passing interest in it. For a while I embraced my inner snob and would only go to the track when I could sit in one of the restricted areas so I didn’t have to deal with the crowds. I eventually graduated to sitting out with the masses and learned that there was plenty of people watching to help make the time between races pass more quickly. And, like most things, I found the day was a lot of fun when you brought in a cooler full of beer. I still don’t go to the track a lot, but I’m game for going 4 or 5 times a summer. And I am not immune to getting swept up in the excitement when a local horse has a chance to win a big race or when there is a chance for a triple crown winner, like there is this Saturday when I’ll Have Another tries to win the Belmont Stakes.

Even when I wasn’t really into horse racing, however, I always loved hearing the names of the horses. It’s still the sole determinant of how I place a wager; the horse can have 30-1 odds, but if I like the name I’ll plunk down a few dollars on it. If none of the names of the horses in a particular race speak to me, I don’t bet.  I’m a sucker for any horse with my name, though fortunately those are few and far between or I might go broke. I tend to like horses that have the word cat in their name or that have something to do with the Yankees. And if the horse’s name makes me laugh, I’m probably going to pick it. One of my favorite moments ever at the track was when there was a horse named “Arrr” in the race; as a fan of pirates (and who isn’t?) I thought that the announcers had a really fun time with the call. I just couldn’t stop laughing:

A friend recently became a part owner in a horse and I was pretty disappointed when they chose what was, in my opinion, a pretty boring name for the horse – Easy Street. It got me thinking as to what I would name a horse if I owned one. I decided to look into it and found that there are a lot of restrictions on what you can name your horse:

  • No names longer than 18 characters, including spaces and punctuation
  • No initials such as C.O.D., F.O.B., etc
  • No names ending in “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare,” “stallion,” or any similar horse-related term
  • No names consisting entirely of numbers, except numbers above thirty may be used if they are spelled out
  • No names ending with a numerical designation such as “2nd” or “3rd,” whether or not such a designation is spelled out
  • No names of persons unless written permission to use their name is on file with The Jockey Club
  • No names of race tracks or graded stakes races
  • No names clearly having commercial significance, such as trade names
  • No names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political or ethnic group
  • No names from the restricted list (Hall of Fame members, Eclipse Awards winners, Kentucky Derby winners, etc.)

With those limitations, I tried to brainstorm some ideas. I figured the horse’s name should be a reflection of my personality and should have some significance to me, so it’s no surprise that I tended toward some pop culture inspired names. My first thought was a name that was inspired by some of my favorite television characters, like “Tim Riggins” or “Buster Bluth,” but I wasn’t sure if those would be allowable. There could be an actual person out there with those names, though “Buster Bluth” is unlikely, so that could be problematic. After some quick additional thought, I came up with some additional possibilities:

  • WhereverImayRomo – the name of my fantasy football team, it’s a play on one of my favorite Metallica songs (“Wherever I may roam”) and my NFL crush, Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo.
  • Yada, Yada, Yada – Inspired by an episode of Seinfeld; I would have preferred “DingoAteYourBaby,” but someone someplace would have probably found that offensive
  • Texas Forever – Inspired by Friday Night Lights
  • El Capitan – Inspired by John Sterling’s home run call for Derek Jeter (the Yankees Captain)
  • Hamsterdam – Inspired by Season 3 of The Wire
  • MisterF – Inspired by Arrested Development; I originally thought “The Banana Stand,” but out of context, someone could assume that was vulgar
  • Penny Can – Inspired by Cougartown
  • TheDarkestTimeline – Inspired by one of my favorite episodes of Community

While I like all these options, I think my ultimate choice for my race horse’s name would be Composite Jones.  This is inspired by an episode of Seinfeld. In the episode, George wants to name his child Seven in honor of Mickey Mantle and Jerry argues that, following that reasoning, you could just look around the house and find names for your kids: Mug, Ketchup, Bisquick, etc. After watching it in college, I joked that I would name my first born after the first thing I saw since I’ve always hated having such a common first name (there were at least 5 Heathers in my class). The first thing I laid eyes on turned out to be my sorority’s composite. It’s been a running joke ever since. I’m sure my family would be relieved if I used the name for a horse instead of a baby 🙂

What would be your pop-culture inspired horse names?