01/30/2015 2:14PM

Hovdey: Some suggestions for a horse with no name


Although a good name will not make a horse run faster or farther, that does not stop Thoroughbred owners from burning the midnight oil in search of just the right combination of words and letters to lay upon freshly turned 2-year-olds. The deadline for early naming of registered foals of 2013 is Sunday.

Midnight Oil is already taken. So is Texas Red, the name attached to the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner, who comes out as a 3-year-old in the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita on Sunday. And Jitterbug, out of the mare Hay Let’s Dance, who won for a tag at Laurel on Thursday.

But there are plenty of names left, including the 46,344 released from captivity by The Jockey Club in December that previously had been used by horses from the not-so-distant past, or names reserved by an owner but then abandoned.

There are 17 ways in which The Jockey Club can turn down a submitted name. The most popular, and probably most often used, are No. 10 (names that are suggestive or have a vulgar or obscene meaning; names considered in poor taste; or names that may be offensive to religious, political, or ethnic groups) and No. 11 (names that appear to be designed to harass, humiliate or disparage a specific individual, group of individuals, or entity).

This accounts for bad taste. Unfortunately, there is no requirement of creativity, which is what racing fans truly appreciate, and what owners should be obligated to attempt. There will be around 23,000 foals of 2013 who need to be called something. Hopefully, none of their owners avail themselves of such names on the released list as R Easy Goer, Findee’s Keepee’s, and Wantabmadonna (although Wannabe Eliot Ness has a certain ring).

If I were the king of the forest (name unavailable), I would have only four simple naming rules to enforce, to wit (unavailable):

◗ Don’t gross out grandma.

◗ Don’t mess with Denman, Collmus, and their fellow announcers.

◗ Resist using the part of the name of the sire and part of the name of the dam unless you can promise you’ll come up with a colt as good as Foolish Pleasure or a mare like Dubai Majesty.

◗ Make it easy to spell, which means spell it right (thank you, Plugged Nickle).

The late W.T. Young was notorious for plundering (unavailable) his world atlas to come up with horse names that had some heft. He would be glad to see that among the names on the released list are Quebec, Azusa, Point Dume, North Carolina, Salinas, Montauk, Israel, and my favorite, Kwajalein, a godforsaken atoll in the Marshall Islands where my father was stationed during World War II.

“Notorious” is unavailable, but there are plenty of other names on the released list that tap into movie madness. They include Ishtar, Gaslight, Blue Velvet, Bronco Billy, and Amistad. There is also Clemenza, Fay Wray, Django (the “d” is silent), Jack Ryan, Jack Sparrow, and Obi Wan Kenobi. And Stooges Three.

Musical notes are prominent on the list. How about a horse called Simply Red, Cream, Kind of Blue, Expecting to Fly, Wham, Kristofferson, or Phish? Short and punchy is also popular: Ado, Crush, Ether, Feared, Aloha, Winter, or just plain Oh. And the literary angle is not neglected on the released list of possibles, offering a choice of classics like Fail Safe, Farewell to Arms, Saint Jack, and Farewell My Lovely, among others.

At some point, a horse was named, or about to be named, and can still be named Carrot Top, Captain Nemo, General Nuisance, Nicky Soup, or Sugar Bum. The list includes Davy Jones, January Jones, Daniel Boone, or Mr. Bond, and a whole family of neighborhood kids called Freddy Finger, Frankie Southpaw, and Freckles O’Brien. Once on a roll, namers sometimes get in a rhythm – Half Crazy, Half Hot, Half Empty – then eventually go completely off the rails with the likes of Hog Heaven, Horse Thief, Bad Bet, Get Dirty, Get Even, No Joke, Section Eight, and Doctor Bubbles.

Horse names get recycled often, but the champions and Hall of Famers are protected for all time, as well as all winners of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (go figure). The names of major stakes winners can be reused after 25 years, which is why the released list includes Balzac, Stonewalk, Fitzwilliam Place, Claire Marine, Batroyale, and Akureyri.

Putting a horse and a name together is no easy task, given that there are so many names from which to choose, and so many of them are clunkers. There will only be one Man o’ War, one Swaps, one Citation, but those names could have been available if the colts in question had not panned out. I’ve got my favorites on the list, topped by Ransack, Shadows, Snuff Box, Pink Cadillac, and Little Sister.

That leaves more than 46,000 left, plus the rest of the English language. Did I mention Billy Baroo is still on the list? Someone, please grab it now.