What’s In a Name?: Kentucky Derby Edition

The entire list of all 413 early nominees to the Triple Crown series of American horse racing  came out yesterday, a source of endless amusement, wonder and yes, fear.  Why?  Because any one of some of the most terribly named horses in history just might cross the finish line first on the Saturday in May, forever etching a name like “Taco Gem” or ‘Big Sugar Soda” into our history books.

The first week in February traditionally sees the publication of the list containing all the horses who have been nominated for the Triple Crown, and thereby the Kentucky Derby.   And while obviously, only 1 to 3 of them can go down in the history books as a winner of a Triple Crown race (for you neophytes, the Triple Crown races are the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes), it’s fun to look over the list to see who is starting the year with such high aspirations.

In recognition of the fact that every single horse on the Kentucky Derby trail that I have ever started rooting for this early in the season has utterly failed to even make it in the starting gate, much less win, last year I began compiling a list of Triple Crown nominees that I would root for.

How did I choose them? Because of their awful, terrible names. This virtually guarantees me happiness on the first Saturday in May…either I will look brilliant for picking a totally unknown horse to win the Derby way back in February OR, even better, I will jinx each of them so that they never get in the gate. It’s kind of like reverse karma racing psychology.  And it worked, none of the horses I picked 4 months out ever turned out good enough to make the gate at Churchill, ensuring me breathing room for another year.  So I thought I would try it again this year.

Why get worked up about their names? Because I have a thing about Derby winner’s names, ok? Every year, when a Derby favorite comes out of the woodwork with some god-awful name like “Daddy Long Legs” or “Pants on Fire”, I despair. Why? Because I just couldn’t stomach a Triple Crown winner that sounds like a schoolyard taunt. If they would happen to win the Derby with such a terrible name, I admit that I would find it difficult to root for them in the subsequent races. After names like Whirlaway, Citation and Secretariat have graced the history books in all their Triple Crown glory, it would be hard to find a place in my heart for “Dean’s Kitten-2010 Triple Crown winner”.

Lil E Tee winning the 1992 Kentucky Derby, one of the less beautiful sounding names in the race’s history books:

Therefore, I present to you the Horse Nation Not-Quite-Derby-Dozen (in alphabetically order, because that might be only logic found in this list):

Big Sugar Soda winning at Saratoga last year. Very pretty horse, not so pretty name!

Big Sugar Soda winning at Saratoga last year. Very pretty horse, not so pretty name!

1. Big Sugar Soda–Why do I have a feeling this poor horse is named by someone in New York City who is either psychotically for or against the whole big soda ban there?  Can’t we just drink our sodas, get fat and let this horse have a decent name?

2. Blarp–Really, Blarp?  This sounds like a caption from a comic book where the superhero weights 500lbs (probably from drinking the aforementioned “big sugar sodas”) and this is the noise made when he sits on people, his only known super power.  Ugh.

Why would you name your horse after THIS?

Why would you name your horse after THIS?

3. Extrasexyhippzster–There are a lot of things wrong with this name.  First, can’t we just choose a name with proper spacing that fits the Jockey Club guidelines so it doesn’t have to be all mushed together?  Second, an “extra sexy hipster”?  Are we talking about hipster men than go from wearing to just skin tight pants to just skin, with painted on leather?  Third, no “z’s” where the “s” should be. Ever.

4. Home Run Kitten–A Kitten’s Joy horse, inevitably.  I love Kitten’s Joy, hate the names of his offspring.  And this name makes my brain envision a small kitten getting whacked with a bat and flying over the green monster at Fenway.

5. Hoppertunity–This names sounds like something a marketing firm would create to sell cars at Easter. Something like:  “Buy now, there has never been a better Hoppertunity!” and then they would have a man in a bunny suit hopping around the car lot.  So no, just no.

A "hoppertunity" of a lifetime in the Derby? Let's hope not.

A “hoppertunity” of a lifetime in the Derby? Let’s hope not.

6. Kulboyz–This sounds like the name of an 80’s rap group of probably white kids from the Midwest.

7. Mr. Ticker Talker–There are several “Mr.” names on the list (Mr. Candy, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Excavator) and technically I dislike them all.  But this sounds like a PBS kid’s show for the children of Wall Street brokers.

Let's leave the "oogeley eye" horses for the Bronies...

Let’s leave the “oogeley eye” horses for the Bronies…

8. Oogely Eye–Although I am curious on the background of this name and if, in fact, the horse has an “oogeley eye”, I don’t think it quite has the dignity to grace the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs.

9. Snuggly Bear–I can only hope the owner’s 4-year-old granddaughter named this horse.  And though I am sure he is endearing, his name is not.

10. Taco Gem–Really? Really? Taco Gem?

You can read the full, sortable list, of Triple Crown nominees HERE.  Who is your pick?

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