Yucatan, Avilius, Muntahaa, Rostropovich and Jaameh might sound like a drunk’s late-night ramblings but they are all live chances in Tuesday’s $7.3 million Melbourne Cup.
And you can be sure that during the countdown to the 158th edition of the famous race, punters across Australia will be wondering how the aforementioned quintet got their names.
It might come as a surprise to some but the naming of race horses is actually a complex process – far more thorough than a trainer picking a name they like and it being automatically approved, as Racing Australia’s keeper of the stud book, Jacqueline Stewart, said.
“Usually owners start to apply for a name for their horse when the foal is about two years old … they give us three options and the list of all the owners,” she said.
“The team [12 people work in the naming department] then do research on all of the names. There’s certain restrictions in place.
“One is that a name can’t be repeated for 17 years after the birth of a horse with exactly the same name or 20 years after the birth of a horse if it is a breeding horse.
“A lot of the time they [names suggested] are related to the breeding, so with the dam and the sire’s name, it is a combination.”
Stewart’s team approve about 13,000 horse names each year. They can refuse any name, and they can also change the name of a horse after it has been approved, even if it is already racing, if need be.
The trainer’s perspective
With most horses part-owned by anywhere from 10 to 30 people, owners normally collate suggestions before whittling down their list to three to send to Racing Australia.
Occasionally trainers get involved in the naming process too. Trainer Ciaron Maher told The New Daily about two of his favourite horses, including Jameka, the three-time Group 1 winner who won nearly $5 million in prize money during an outstanding career.
“I love Serena Williams – she is a great athlete and very strong, much like our horse. So we wanted to call her Serena,” Maher said.
“When we went to name her officially, the name wasn’t available. We googled what her middle name was and found it is Jameka.
Maher has stuck with the theme for a young horse he has high hopes for.
“We have got a lovely filly in the stable at the moment, she has only just turned two but hopefully looks fast,” he said.
“Our horse-breaker, Adrian Corboy, told us when he broke her in that she was fast and going to run like Cathy Freeman.
“We couldn’t get the name Cathy, so we continued with the middle name theme and have registered her as Cathy’s middle name, Salome.”
What about the race callers?
Racing has a long history of weird and wonderful names. Without doubt, the most affected by them are race callers, who might have to call a horse’s name 20 times during a race.
The New Daily spoke to two of Australia’s best, Racing Victoria’s Matthew Hill and Sky Racing’s Darren Flindell, about the challenges odd names can present.
“You almost have to know every language these days … Google has been good for us and YouTube and things like that,” Hill said.
“Some of the hardest names aren’t even that weird but they’re just hard to say … there’s one at the moment that’s running on the provincials that I hope doesn’t, well – with all respect to the owners – I hope the horse stays low, called Sally Sells Shells.
“That’s one I don’t like.”
Flindell said some foreign names were a “real nightmare for the callers”. He has no doubt that owners often try to trip up callers with horses’ names.
“I think that’s one of the old art forms, really, to slip these names in, which in print look harmless,” he said.
“There’s a horse at the moment called Wear The Fox Hat, there’s another old one called Pistol Knight … when names like that come in our race calls, it’s got a completely different meaning [laughs].”
Hill and Flindell insist preparation is key. They will even call managing owners, and spend hours researching, just to get a horse’s name right.
But there’s no doubt they prefer the simpler-named horses.
“How easy is Winx? Winx is fantastic,” Hill said.
“Look at all the great horses, Might And Power, Saintly, Winx, Black Caviar, they were easy to say. You’ve got to give your horse every chance and giving it a half-decent name is a good start.”
The New Daily’s top nine horse names of all time
The Gatting Ball Named after Shane Warne’s unforgettable delivery in Britain, this Darren Weir-trained horse has won twice in 18 starts. Ran second on two occasions in October.
Arrrrr Legendary American race caller Tom Durkin went into pirate mode to call this victory.
Maythehorsebewithu Horse with Star Wars based-name ran fifth in the 2001 Melbourne Cup.
Who Shot Thebarman The Chris Waller camp said this popular horse – a winner of $4.5 million in prize money – got its name because it “is a saying that the owner’s aunt used to say if she came through the door and wasn’t offered a drink.” Gold.
Onoitsmymothernlaw Everyone was on their best behaviour around this American horse.
Sotally Tober Yeah, right.
Leonardo Da Hinchi This colt, born by Hinchinbrook out of Portrait, is one to watch, with three wins from six starts.
Dennis Denuto Named with inspiration from the sire/dam combination of Swiss Ace and Vibe. Fans of The Castle have enjoyed watching this New Zealand horse go round.
Doremifasolatido It looks like a mouthful but say it out loud and you’ll get the drift. Watch on for Durkin at his brilliant best.