How to Name a Racehorse

Posted by Evan Chronis on Thu, Aug 23, 2018 @ 12:09 PM

Our Briantrust, Dream Maker, Chattel, Sir Truebadour and Yes and Yes.

Kentucky Derby 2019

These are just some of the names of the current slate of potential contenders for the 2019 Kentucky Derby®. If you think they sound odd or out of the ordinary... well, you're correct. Thoroughbred horse racing is completely unique in its naming conventions and is unlike anything else you see in typical american sports. Horse names aren't tied to cities or given a ferocious sounding nickname, but rather follow along a strict set of guidelines. 

It's a complicated process, but one deserving of diving into. 

Let's start with the last step first. Once a name is selected, it needs to be approved by the Jockey Club, a governing body in horse racing. But there is a deadline: the horse's name must be submitted by February 1 of its two-year-old year. Up to six names can be submitted at a single time with the preferred name starting at the top. 

The actual name chosen is decided by adherence to the following guidelines:

Race Horse Naming Guidelines

  • All names have a limit of 18 characters, which includes spaces and punctuation.
  • The name cannot consist entirely of initials.
  • The name cannot suggest vulgar or obscene meanings or gestures. They also cannot be offensive to religious and ethnic groups.
  • The terms "filly", "colt", "stud", "stallion" or "mare" may not be in the name.
  • Cannot be given a name with commercial value or sponsorship
  • The name cannot mimic that of previous Kentucky Derby winners or that of steeds voted Horse of the Year.
  • Cannot use the name of a track or stakes race
  • All names after a living person without written consent are prohibited
  • No use of the name of a deceased person without approval from the Jockey Club

So there you have it. That's why you see the erratic plethora of names that you do on the horse racing track. But there is one more step that I haven't mentioned:

Once a name is selected for a steed, its name is tattooed under its lip for identification purposes. A name doesn't have to be permanent, as well. A horse's official name can be altered as long as its before its first race and before it begins breeding. 

2019 Kentucky Derby

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See these horses in action with an Official Ticket Package to the Kentucky Derby through Derby Experiences! You can pick from an abundance of different offerings to make sure you craft your perfect experience at Churchill Downs® in the spring.

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Topics: Kentucky Derby 2019

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Kristen Doolan

Kristen Doolan was born and raised a Florida State Seminole. Making her way from Florida to North Carolina, Kristen achieved her B.S. in Business Administration, Marketing at The University of North Carolina Wilmington. She is an avid traveler, college football addict, beach bum and loves spending time with her family and friends. 


Jazzy Morgan

Jazzy Morgan is originally from London, England and a die-hard Manchester United Fan. She grew up in Connecticut and made the move down south in 2011 where she attended Winthrop University and received her B.S. in Family & Consumer Sciences and a minor in Marketing. Jazzy enjoys traveling, working out, reading her monthly Vogue & Cosmo and keeping up with fashion trends.


Evan Chronis

Evan Chronis was born in Omaha, Nebraska but has made his home in south Charlotte for almost two decades. A Tar Heel born and bred, Evan received his B.A in Media and Journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is an avid Boston sports fan thanks to his family’s New England roots, and a fanboy of Wes Anderson films.