Preakness starters' names evolve from an involved process

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Posted: May 15, 2015 3:00 AM
Preakness starters' names evolve from an involved process

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Coming up with a clever name for a thoroughbred can be a challenge — and not just creatively.

While parents simply put their choice of names for their child on a birth certificate and are done, registering a thoroughbred foal is not so easy.

Owners can submit up to six choices in order of preference to The Jockey Club in the registration process. Similar to choosing an online password, the name can't exceed 18 characters, must be available and comply with a lengthy list of guidelines.

And that's before it receives the blessing of The Jockey Club, which last year approved an estimated 26,000 of 36,500 names submitted.

The odds seem to be in an owner's favor, but that doesn't make it easy.

"The reason we have such quality control is to make things very clear to the layman, to the stakeholder, to a trainer, to a bettor," The Jockey Club manager of registration services Andrew Chesser said. "You want to avoid confusion, especially when you're talking about two particular horses that can be racing at the same time and breeding at the same time."

Chesser couldn't explain the 18-character limit other than it being the worldwide standard and added, "18 has just always seemed to work."

Some horses' names feature a combination of its sire (father) and dam (mother) or the damsire (mom's father). Others such as 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister are more creative: that colt was named after Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's son, Bode.

"You try to come up with a name you just might like," said Dallas Stewart, who trains Tale of Verve. "It's OK to be a little crazy with them. After all, it's your horse."

Owners can submit a name for free until Feb. 1 of the second year after the horse is born, then there's a $100 charge. Names can also be reserved.

The Jockey Club's list of exclusions is long and detailed, and Triple Crown winners or any series race are permanently protected from duplication.

That's just fine by Secretariat owner Penny Chenery, who proudly said of the legendary 1973 Triple Crown champion, "There's only one Secretariat."

A look at the backstories of the names of several entrants in Saturday's 140th Preakness:

AMERICAN PHAROAH: You might notice that his surname is a misspelling of the Egyptian ruler Pharaoh, a role made famous onscreen by Yul Brynner in "The Ten Commandments." Owner Ahmed Zayat, a native of Egypt who wanted a horse reflective of his culture, originally blamed The Jockey Club for the typo. The name was misspelled when it was submitted by a woman who won an online contest run by the family, and the Zayats didn't catch it. No worries, since the horse has made a name for himself with his Derby victory.

DANZIG MOON: Norman Casse, who helps his father, Mark, in training the horse, laughs as he explains this name as "pretty straightforward." His first name derives from his damsire, Danzig, his last name from sire Malibu Moon. Whether heavy metal band Danzig inspired the name is unclear. But its use has generated a social media cult following. Boston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub recently played a game asking, "Is it a race horse or a bad local band?"

BODHISATTVA: The Buddhist term means some who is enlightened and delays reaching Nirvana in order to save others. It'll be interesting to see if the California-bred colt is that selfless with his fellow horses if he's leading in the stretch. Extra credit for pronouncing the name correctly on the first try: (boh-dee-SAHT'-vah).

TALE OF VERVE: Another easy one. Owner Charles Fipke likes to pass horses' names down the line. This one derives from sire Tale of Ekati and dam Verve, whose damsire is 1990 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Unbridled. This 30-1 longshot could write his own tale by earning his first graded stakes win in the Preakness.

MR. Z: Zayat's children submitted the name in honor of their father, who sold the horse this week to Calumet Farm. Another son of Malibu Moon and trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, the chestnut colt looks to rebound from his 13th-place Derby finish but is a 20-1 longshot in the Preakness.