Horsey McHorseface and Passing Wind: A Kentucky Derby season celebration of funny horse names

This year’s Derby favorite is a horse named Nyquist, named after Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gustav Nyquist. But that’s not even in the race for the weirdest horse names of all time.
This year’s Derby favorite is a horse named Nyquist, named after Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gustav Nyquist. But that’s not even in the race for the weirdest horse names of all time. Associated Press

Horsey McHorseface will not be at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

But one race he is most certainly in the running for: silliest horse name of all.

Ha Ha Ha.

That’s actually a real horse name, one of 12 that Great British Racing placed on its list of funniest horse names of all time last year.

DoReMiFaSaLaTiDo, Maythehorsebewithu, Gee Spot and Passing Wind made the cut, too.

So did AARRRRRRR, which GBR joked was “clearly named on ‘Speak Like A Pirate’ Day,” and “is probably the only animal able to kind of pronounce and say his own name — which is a skill in itself.”

“One of the best parts of Triple Crown season is seeing what strange and wonderful names the winning horses inevitably have,” Ben Blatt wrote for Slate during last year’s season.

Remember Ocho Ocho Ocho from last year’s Derby?

“If you look at the big races, there are not many horses who win them without good names,” British racing commentator Cornelius Lysaght told CNN.

Google “weird horse names” and you’ll find the Britannica encyclopedia’s list of “7 of the Weirdest Racehorse Names in History.”

On that list: Odor in the Court, Hoof Hearted, Ghost Zapper and Waikikamukau, which is pronounced “Why kick a moo cow.”

Last year Fusion ranked all past Kentucky Derby winners according to the “awesomeness” of their names.

It noted that 1932’s winner, Burgoo King, was named for a traditional Kentucky stew, but sounds oh so like Burger King. And the 1876 winner, Vagrant, came “from an amazing pedigree of crazy names. His grandfather was named Vandal and his mother was named Lazy.” created its own Top 10 list of weird horse names a few years ago. It applauded Junk in the Trunk, That’s What She Said, Riding Miss Daisy and Walk of Shame.

Where is the Beef made them think of the “mysterious meat you ate at the school cafeteria.”

Bodacious Tatas? “Do we really have to explain this name,” the betting experts asked.

Blatt was curious about whether horse names were getting weirder and longer over the years, so he examined the names of every horse that ever competed in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes through 2014.

“Measuring the oddity of a horse’s name is subjective. Is Wicked Strong (2014) a weirder name for a horse than Bad News (1903)?” he wondered.

“What about Dr. Rice (1893) versus Dr. Miller (1961) or Dr. Greenfield (2001)? Or how weird is it to name a horse Correlation (1954)?”

Steven Crist, editor and publisher emeritus of the Daily Racing Forum, told Blatt that horse names have gotten more odd because of a new breed of owners.

Fifty years ago, Crist said, more horses came from stables that bred their own horses. Names tended to be more conservative, even regal. More owners today have never owned horses before and go with less-traditional monikers.

Blatt found that horse names have grown more complicated over the years — as in long and tongue-twisty. Right now names average just under 11 letters.

The Jockey Club, which oversees the naming of race horses in the United States, has set the limit at 18 letters.

Blatt found four horse names that had hit that magic mark, including Atswhatimtalknbout and Imawildandcrazyguy.

Say those 10 times really fast.

Actually, the Jockey Club’s extensive naming rules are no laughing matter.

You can’t, for example, name a horse after a famous person without permission. The same rule is observed across the pond. Years ago Sigmund Freud’s grandson asked British prime minister Margaret Thatcher if he could name his horse after her. When she said no he named it Weareagrandmother instead.

Names can’t be vulgar or dirty — Harry Balzitch, Pee Ness and Hucking Fell have all failed to pass that sniff test.

And don’t even try to name a horse after a terrorist organization. Al Qaeda and ISIS are on the no-no list.

A horse’s name must be unique, unlike any of the 450,000 or so names already listed in the Jockey Club’s database.

The holy grail of names is one that racing authorities decide may never be used again. Seabiscuit is one of those.

A distinctive name might not make a horse run faster, but it can go a long way to writing its legacy and even getting people to bet on it.

Black Caviar rolls nicely off the tongue, doesn’t it?

“I don’t know about you, but the majority of people I’ve ever known to bet on horse racing have always placed bets on the horses with the most appealing names (apparently, this is also not the best method for placing winning bets, but, whatever, it’s probably the most fun),” writes Amy Roberts for Bustle.

One-word names, always popular in horse racing, seem to be even more popular.

This year’s Derby favorite is a horse named Nyquist, named after Detroit Red Wings hockey player Gustav Nyquist, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

He’ll be running against a horse named Outwork, so named because he, well, outworked all the other horses. Another Derby competitor, Creator, was named after God by his devout Christian owners.

An odd name is a surefire way to grab media attention. The 2-year-old named Horsey McHorseface gets his handle from a riff on Boaty McBoatface, the name Brits voted to give a $300 million polar research ship.

“Any publicity is good publicity,” racing manager Jake Bruce told CNN about Horsey, who makes his racing debut in Australia later this month.

“He’s got as good a chance as any to make it and we’d absolutely love to win with him on a big day. It would be a) hilarious and b) great for the owners.”

Jockey Club spokeswoman Shannon Luce told the Herald-Leader that she hasn’t spotted any naming trends in this year’s Derby field.

But you don’t have to think twice about the inspiration behind a certain trifecta of newly approved Jockey Club names.

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