In the long history of the Kentucky Derby, horse owners have been submitting names ranging from bizarre to touching to awesome, and sometimes all three. Why has the naming gotten so out of hand? The Jockey Club has registered all horse names since 1894, admitting about 25,000 per year currently and with 450,000 total in its database.
There are important rules that lead to this amazing diversity of names, which include an 18-character limit; names with horse-related terms; naming after recent winners, or even recent competitors; names with commercial or artistic implications; and names of real people (living or dead) unless permission is given -- just to name a few.
Here are some of the very best of these names that ran in the Kentucky Derby:
This horse, who raced in 1921, was among the most obedient horses ever. Horses are trained to pace themselves, run the track correctly, and, most important, win! Behave Yourself did just that, pacing itself and coming from behind to win the 1921 Derby.
Built for Pleasure
Pleasure, perhaps, but speed? Apparently not. Built for Pleasure, with 143-1 odds, finished in last place out of 19 competitors in 1996.
Mucho Macho ManYou guessed it, this horse is a colt. The son of equally well-named Macho Uno fared well in the 2011 Derby, finishing third.
Single FootIt is most fun to make fun of a poor horse when its name predicts victory, yet the horse falls flat. In this case, Single Foot set the expectations nice and low, so his fourth-place finish in the 1925 Derby doesn't seem so bad.
This horse's name brushes with more than one of the horse-naming rules. Fusaichi is a combination of the owner's name, Fusao, and "ichi" -- which means "first place" or "the best." This gets the horse team out of translating the name, since it is technically not a foreign word. Also, Pegasus is a horse-related term but not a racing term, so it didn't need to be changed. This difficult-to-pronounce colt lived up to his name and won the 2000 Derby
Deeds Not Words
Deeds Not Words seems like such a nice motto to live by, but, unfortunately, Deeds Not Words may want to be remembered by something more than his last-place finish at the 1997 Derby.
LadysmanLadysman finished fourth at the 1933 Kentucky Derby, but something tells us that he enjoyed his post-racing career as a stud quite a bit more.
My Dad GeorgeIn 1967, two brothers went off to buy some racehorses. One of these fated foals bore the name My Dad George, named after none other than the boys' father. Surely enough, My Dad George made dad proud by taking second in the 1970 race.
Thunder GulchAn intimidating, natural name that couldn't have been a better combination of his parents' names: Sire Gulch and Dam Line of Thunder. Living up to such a phonically pleasing name, Thunder Gulch won the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
Tie: Charming Kitten/Fear The Kitten
These two competitors in the 2013 Derby will finally bring the much-adored kitten to the Kentucky Derby, long missed since the dreaded Cat Thief ran in 1999.
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