Tuesday, July 13, 2010
A to Z
LOS ANGELES, July 13, 2010--The Daily Racing Form hired me to do a story or two about horses' names. In the confusion--all mine--something was omitted, an A-to-Z accounting of my favorite horses' names.
So here they are, f.o.b.:
B Bates Motel. According to "The Names They Gave Them," by Suzanne Bolus and the late Jim Bolus and J.B. Faulconer, it was owner Jacqueline Getty's movie buff son, Michael, who named this colt in honor of the fleatrap where Janet Leigh took that bloody shower in "Psycho."
C Cigar. Cigar Aficionado magazine gave this champion some play, but his name had nothing to do with the stogy. Allen Paulson, an expert pilot, named him after an aviation checkpoint over the Gulf of Mexico.
D Determine. Before this colt won the Kentucky Derby, The Jockey Club kept rejecting names. The exasperated owner, Andy Crevolin, had a eureka moment when he said: "I'm determined to get a good name for this horse."
E Eclipse. One of the world's most important foundation sires, he was foaled in England, during an eclipse of the sun, on April 1, 1764. I'm skeptical of any legend that's almost as old as Beowulf. Was there an April's Fool back then?
F Flying Paster. Ben Ridder, a partner in the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, named this horse after the gizmo that facilitates changing those giant newsprint rolls without stopping the presses. A paste is needed, and the sire of Flying Paster was Gummo (named after the least-known of the Marx brothers, but that's another story).
G Gato Del Sol. From the Spanish, the name means "cat of the sun." Arthur Hancock, co-owner of the Derby winner, remembered that he once had a barn cat who liked to laze in the morning sun, and the sire of Gato Del Sol was a big cat, Cougar II.
H Holy Bull. Unconfirmed: Rachel Carpenter, the horse's original owner, was a fan of the New York Yankees and their shortstop-turned-broadcaster, Phil Rizzuto. Rizzuto's stock on-air exclamation was: "Holy Cow!" Had Holy Bull been a filly, he would have been named Holy Cow.
I Iron Liege. Lucille Markey of Calumet Farm wanted to call the future Derby winner Iron Lea, after the sire Bull Lea. The dam was Iron Maiden, and Bull Lea's grandam was Plucky Liege.
J John Henry. It took a while, but John Henry became a steely horse, named after the steel-driving man who was an American folk hero.
K Keyser Soze (pronounced KYE-zer SO-say). Named after a mysterious character in the movie "The Usual Suspects."
L Letthebighossroll. I hate names that are spelledthisway, but there's room for one in every collection.
M Mairzy Doates. Say it quickly and i comes out, "mares eat oats." Part of a lyric from a 1943 novelty hit ("Oh mairzy doats/and dozey doats/and little lambsy divey").
N Native Dancer. The clever owner Alfred G. Vanderbilt at work: by Polynesian, out of Geisha.
O One-Eyed Tom. When this unraced, one-eyed, Nevada-bred gelding went to Churchill Downs in 1972, he flunked the gate test and was ruled out of the Derby.
P Phar Lap. In Thai, pharlap means "emitting lightning from the sky," and wasn't that prophetic.
Q Quack. I hate "origin unknown," so I'll make a wild stab. The breeding is T.V. Lark-Quillon. Take the first two letters of the dame and add the last three of the sire and you have "Quark." Then change the "r" to a "c." It's my theory and I'm stuck with it. I even quizzed exercise riders of Quack and they weren't any help.
R Ridan. The trainer Moody Jolley said this horse reminded him of another horse, Nadir, so they spelled the name backwards.
S Shecky Greene. Joe Goldman, the owner, named him after the comedian, who said: "Good thing they didn't use my real name. Can you imagine rooting for a horse named Sheldon Greenfield?"
T Tabasco Cat. Tabasco, a trade name, isn't a barbecue sauce, but this colt's name was Barbicue Sauce. "When we started out," trainer Wayne Lukas said, "the Tabasco people weren't happy about it, but after he started winning, they sent cases of the stuff to the barn."
U Unbridled. The first two name choices for the Derby winner were Neenah and Turko, but they had been taken. So Frances Genter dusted off the name of another Unbridled that she had raced 40 years earlier.
V Vagrant. The dam's name was Lazy.
W Wild Again. The Faulconer-Bolus book suggests that the name came from the song by the rock band Starship, but the way I heard it is that Wild Again's owners, a partying crowd, had an especially raucous night, after which one of them said: "Tomorrow night, let's get wild again." Another said: "That would be a good name for a horse."
X X's and O's. This filly doesn't have any football in her bloodlines, but the name is undoubtably an homage to what coaches draw on their chalkboards (do they still use chalkboards?).
Y Your Host. Origin unknown. A customer walks into a restaurant and the maitre'd greets him by saying, "I'm your host." The customer says, "You're the sire of Kelso?"
Z Zenyatta. Co-owner Jerry Moss, who used to run A&M Records, named his mare after "Zenyatta Mondatta," an album recorded by The Police.