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Racing Form: Our Annual Handicapping Of Kentucky Derby Horse Names


Each May (since back in 2014), we have looked for the winner in the Run for the Roses, based upon the name of each thoroughbred.  Last year’s surprising super-horse was California Chrome; the prediction here was:  “This is a 1965 muscle car from GM, is it not?  It’s not necessarily the best driver on the road and it may not be the absolutely most reliable way to get from A to B, but it can run.”  Chrome almost ran itself into a Triple Crown.

Here, in order of gate position, are this year’s horses:

Ocho Ocho Ocho.   Under the eight-ball three times. This does not feel at all lucky to me. No mas.

Carpe Diem.  A forceful message.  All of these horses want to seize the day.  I will want to consider one who’s been bred for that purpose.  To some, Carpe will sound a bit fishy, which is a turnoff in a racehorse.

Materiality.  As a lawyer I should love this one, since materiality is always an important touchstone for identifying relevant evidence.  But do we want to pick a horse whose best claim to win a race might come on technicalities that disqualify every other horse?
Tencendur.  We can all agree, this horse sounds too calm to beat out nineteen other world class animals.  Maybe he is a good choice for leading the pre-race prayer in the paddock.

Danzig Moon.  What’s with “Danz?” (Last year, we had Danza.) A name which suggests this horse is going to drop harness to flash his hindquarters might make him a favorite guest at Animal House, but I’m sorry, to me, the name does not connote “Champion.”

Mubtaahij (call him: MOOB-tah-heege).  What are we American consumers to do with a foreign sounding name, especially an unfamiliar one.   It became hard to dissect connotations other than the most broad-based ethnic ones. It’s an Arabic name.  (Reportedly, it means either “cheery” or “elated.”)  Only a small percentage of the population will get those meanings. To the rest of us, a horse named “Moo” seems to be a confusing choice for the winner’s circle.
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LOUISVILLE, KY – APRIL 30: Mubtaahij goes over the track during morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on April 30, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

El Kabeir.  Surely this is not the alter-ego of El Kabong, which itself was the alter-ego of the cartoon horse Quickdraw McGraw?   I don’t know why, but this name seems to resonate.

Dortmund.  The only Dortmund I know is a large German city. I don’t know if this is in the lederhosen part of the country, but I can just see this horse taking a jaunty walk in the woods.

Bolo.  This name has so many meanings.  It is slang for a screw up, for “be on the lookout,” for a type of knife, or a necktie.  This horse will be a slow starter, but work his way up along the rail. The rest of the field must be on the lookout.

Firing Line.  A fine name for a racehorse.  Naturally, very quick out of the gate from the number ten position.

Stanford.  We’re talking an academic and athletic powerhouse.  A top 20 pick in football and women’s basketball, as well as men’s basketball NIT champs (ok, ok).   Why not the Derby, too?

International Star.  This creates rather vague imagery.  If this refers to the horse itself, this name is too boastful to put in the work to be a champ.

Itsaknockout.  This would be another tough contender.  Win by a knockout, and it is lights out for the rest of the field.  Plus, this name may mean it’s a nice looking horse, too.
Keen Ice.  I’m trying to say this name fast (keenice?) to see what else it could mean.  Ice in the veins is always good in a competitor.  Not a bad name.  Let’s say I’m lukewarm about Keen Ice.

Frosted.  First cousin to Keen Ice?   Neutral on the connotation scale.  Or maybe a horse with some gray hair?   If this horse is frosted by the competition, that would not be good.

War Story.  Everyone loves a good one.  Plus, there are Man o’ War, and War Admiral.  This sounds like a good old-fashioned racehorse name if ever there was one.

Mr. Z.  I have it on good authority that Mr. Z does the mane and tail styling of the other nineteen horses.  I’m just saying.

American Pharoah.  Royalty is another popular naming theme, and this guy has the advantage of being a favorite.  It’s a tough name to beat.

Upstart.  This has to be a longshot. The big risk takers will put their money down heavily on this entry.

Far Right.  Finally, a horse the Tea Party can call its own.  At Churchill Downs, the horse coming up along the far right can win the race if he’s ready to run longer and farther than everyone else.  If everything falls into place, and the rest of the field is bunched in the middle or, heaven forbid, on the left, then Far Right might be able to pull it off.

How do my theories pan out?  Besides my boast on California Chrome (above), my theory spit the bit completely on last year’s #2 horse, Commanding Curve (“you don’t picture it being a complete wire to wire racehorse”).  Win some, lose some.

This article originally appeared on Forbes

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LOUISVILLE, KY – APRIL 30: Stanford goes over the track during morning training for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on April 30, 2015 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

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