11/21/2016 9:19AM

For Harambe, it's all in the name


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A 10-race Wednesday card at Churchill Downs will be highlighted by a couple of allowance races – but only if you ignore the gorilla in the room.

A 2-year-old filly named Harambe will make her career debut in the third race, a $15,000 maiden-claiming sprint – which wouldn’t qualify as news if not for her name. People on social media have been going crazy since discovering a racehorse has been named for a gorilla now famous in death.

“I named her Harambe for fun,” said trainer Murat Sancal. “I like that kind of thing. People will remember.”

On May 28, Harambe, a 17-year-old male gorilla, was shot to death at the Cincinnati Zoo after a 3-year-old boy had wandered into his enclosure. Harambe has since become a genuine Internet craze, memorialized in memes, GIFs, and, as an Atlantic Monthly article explained, “a medium of cultural evolution with no message, signifying nothing so much as its own virality.

Sancal, a 32-year-old native of Turkey, wonders whether the filly named Harambe will get claimed for $15,000.

“She’s an okay horse,” he said. “I might lose her just because of the name.”