What's in a name? For thoroughbreds, a lot of thought and a lot of fun.
Names are part of the symbolism and gamesmanship tha attract so many fans to racing. Bettors use them for hunches; backstretch workers use them for affectionate nicknames; writers use them for puns. Owners will spend weeks wracking their brains for a name to fit a particular horse.
Throughout the country, examples of clever names are easy to find. Often, a name is derived from a horse's father or mother or both. They also come from an occurrence, a place, a person or just about anything.
In Maryland, there have been many recent competitors with well-conceived names. Two fillies from the same stable are What Lulu Wants and Lulu Gets. He Is Risen was foaled on Easter, the day Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead. Haymaker is a son of Two Punch.
Trainer Scott Regan has an unraced horse who was named just so that former Laurel announcer Robin Burns could call it in his best Three Stooges imitation: Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk.
Burns' plays on names still linger in fans' minds. There was the time he said, "Here comes Bobcaroltednalice -- all four of 'em!" And, "Gangway, gangway! Gangway Jack now gets the lead!"
Howard's Stern, named for the celebrity radio personality, ran Friday at Laurel. There have been many horses named for famous people, such as Shecky Greene, Joe Frazier, Joe Namath and the most accomplished of all, Chris Evert.
Names can come from outside or unsolicited sources. The Phil Straw family of Ellicott City is credited with including the name Sunday Silence on a list they mailed to owner Arthur Hancock in Kentucky. A local racing writer said he submitted a name to the owner of a foal by Roo Art, out of Little Green Van. To his mild disappointment, Chartroose has not yet surfaced in the entries.
The Jockey Club, which approves names, permits up to 18 NTC characters (letters, punctuation, spaces) and disallows names of questionable taste or intent. Occasionally, names are done with such deftness that they pass Jockey Club standards.
Years ago, there was a horse sired by King of the Tudors and foaled by Full of Beans. Its name was Royal Fort.
Another was sired by Banquet Table and foaled by Cold as a Witch's. The name was Titular Feast.
Speaking of names, Apollo was the winner of the 1882 Kentucky Derby. One hundred nine years later, another Apollo is an early Derby contender.
The colt won a restricted stakes at Santa Anita Park last weekend, making him 4-for-4 lifetime. Kent Desormeaux rides Apollo for trainer Gary Jones.
Desormeaux, meanwhile, was emerging from easily his worst slump since moving to California early last year. Desormeaux, who turns 21 on Feb. 27, started the current Santa Anita meet 3-for-114, including an 0-for-52 streak.
Desormeaux's name was in the local news last week as part of the Lady Winner controversy. Last March, when the Maryland Racing Commission overturned the stewards' original decision to disqualify Lady Winner, Desormeaux's suspension for his ride on the filly also was nullified.
Now that a judge has backed the stewards, what becomes of the seven-day suspension?
"They were separate matters," said chief steward Clinton P. Pitts Jr. "It wasn't part of this recent decision."
Speaking of California, Laffit Pincay Jr. is enjoying a rejuvenated career.
Slowed by injuries last year, Pincay, 44, has been much more a factor lately among the nation's best jockey colony. After recently passing the 7,500-victory mark, he reiterated that if he remains healthy, he will try to top Bill Shoemaker's record of 8,833 winning rides.
Speaking of Shoemaker, his retirement from riding came one year ago today. Besides having already become a moderately successful trainer, he is spokesman for the distillery that is sponsoring the new, bonus-enhanced "Early Times Triple Turf Classic" series.
The three turf races precede, by one day, a Triple Crown race at the corresponding Triple Crown track.
In a publicity release for the series, New York Racing Association track superintendent Joe King is quoted as saying the quality of turf racing is "generally higher because there's less of it."
Using that logic, does that mean Laurel should bring back Arabian racing?
0$ Ah, we know what you meant, Joe.