Even though Life did such a good job already on their own “Weird, Wonderful Horse Names” in Thoroughbred racing (That’s called sarcasm, folks), a few picks of my own failed to enter consideration as the strangest, most special, and or most fitting names throughout the history of horse racing. Here are just a few of the greatest turns at memorably naming a Thoroughbred racehorse, all of which Life failed to mention:
Small and missing an eye, the colt named after Seabiscuit’s half-blind jockey wasn’t all that successful on the track— like his namesake, his wins were trumped by his losses. Producing small, awkward foals at stud, his heart persevered to shine through: such as the case of aptly-named Blind Luck, the small but courageous filly who would take the Kentucky Oaks as a three-year-old.
Go For Wand
The seemingly bottomless, brilliant filly was named in the tradition many of her owners’ horses were named— after the occult. The filly’s dam was named Obeah (meaning the sort of magic used in West Indies cultures) and it is considered bad luck to cast your obeah on another person. To guard yourself against evil, you must “go for wand.”
Rosa Hoots and her husband Al long dreamed of owning a fine colt. Their fortune finally turned for the better when oil was discovered on their Oklahoma lands, and they could finally afford to send their speedy mare U-See-It to the court of Kentucky stallion Black Toney. The resulting foal, black as night, was named after the oil fields that made a horse like him possible for the Hoots.
Owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson had a painting of a foxhunting scene in their Maryland home, and named their Kentucky Derby winner after one of the hounds depicted in the work. They subsequently named Barbaro’s full brothers Nicanor and Lentenor after two other hounds in the painting.
The awkward, ruddy chestnut colt was bred by F.D. Knight, and upon witnessing his growth into a giant yearling, felt he could someday “exterminate” the competition, giving him his name. Future owner Willis Sharp Kilmer would find the gelding laughable, using him as a workmate for his prized colt Sun Briar. As it turned out, Exterminator was indeed the better horse, which he proved to Kilmer multiple times on the track.
A lot of racehorses are also named after real people, such as Rachel Alexandra (named after her breeder’s granddaughter) and Hugh Hefner (a longshot colt in the 2000 Triple Crown preps). One of the better tributes to living people was Dr. Fager, who was named after his trainer underwent two risky surgeries under the careful hands of a Boston brain surgeon by the same name. Had it not been for the real Dr. Fager, Hall of Fame trainer John Nerud might not have lived to handle of the best horses he would ever teach.
A blend of his parents’ names and his owner, Alfred G. Vanderbilt’s trip to the Pacific. His sire was Polynesian— Polynesia is of course an island in the Pacific— and his dam was Geisha, the term for Japanese socialite women. Recalling his vacation overseas, Vanderbilt remembered the dancers of the islands he visited, and thus Native Dancer’s name was conceived.
As a fractious, temperamental, and curmudgeonly young colt, the horse who would become known as John Henry had developed a terrible habit of knocking down steel buckets and stomping them flat with his hooves, reminding his owners of the steel-driving folk legend after which he was named.
When owner/president of WinStar Bill Casner’s daughter died in a terrorist attack in Indonesia, the horseman was overwhelmed with grief. Months later, a Tiznow colt was born on her birthday. Casner named him symbolically for his daughter, whom he wished had had protection that fateful night.