I don’t know anything about horse racing, and I can’t offer any analysis on the Kentucky Derby itself. What I can do is power rank the horses’ names, because horse racing is my NL All-Star team.
Names are assessed on how effectively they attract rooting interest and how intimidating they would be to other horses if other horses could grasp basic forms of human innuendo.
The Dullahan is the Irish fairy that was the basis for the Headless Horseman, and my God is it terrifying. Its head, which it holds in its hand, is said to smell and look like cheese, while a grotesque grin is constantly plastered across its face. Anyone who sees the Dullahan either loses sight in one eye or has a basin of blood thrown in their face, and it only stops riding when it is about to call someone’s soul from their body. Even more, the Dullahan often leaves a trail of fire in his wake, and its whip is made of a human spine. The only horse mythology more alarming than the Dullahan is The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and that would be a confusing name for a single horse. Also: Ireland leads the world in terrifying old wives’ tales, for some reason.
2. El Padrino
This is Spanish for “The Godfather.” Do the horses he competes against wake up with bloody human heads in their beds? Our guess is yes.
3. I’ll Have Another
Paul and Zillah Reddam own this horse, and its name is either about Paul always having more of Zillah’s cookies or about drinking. The latter ties in well with the reality that the Kentucky Derby is about boozing almost as much as it is about horse racing, and for the record, a horse named Mint Julep would stay atop the power rankings in perpetuity.
4. Rousing Sermon
Who doesn’t love a good rousing sermon? Few things whip people into more of a frenzy, and for many horse racing fans the Derby call is the most rousing sermon of the year. It just sounds right imagining a manic announcer screaming this name down the stretch.
6. My Adonis
These are the boldest names in the field. The first is a nice acknowledgment of the simplistic manner in which animals assert dominance. If Alpha wins the Derby, he becomes the alpha dog (er… horse?) in the equestrian world. If he doesn’t, he chokes to death on hubris.
Meanwhile, Adonis was the Greek god of beauty and desire, but you knew that. This name follows the same outline as Alpha, but focuses on beauty instead of dominance. Alpha obviously has his priorities more in order.
7. Went The Day Well
This horse, from England, is named after a line from John Maxwell Edmonds’ Kohima Epitaph. How remarkably cheeky — and not that awesome.
A portmanteau of Trinidad, where his owners are from, and Teuflesberg, the name of his father. There’s nothing wrong with naming a horse after someone, but the problem with names like this is you can’t expect anyone else to care. This is like making an inside reference in front of millions of people who don’t get the inside reference… in fact, this is exactly like that.
9. Take Charge Indy
I had hoped this name came from an affinity for Pacers who can draw offensive fouls. As it turns out, his father was the famous A.P. Indy, and his mother was Take Charge Lady. Which is a very domineering name for a mom.
10. Union Rags
His great grandfather was Glad Rags, who has a smaller profile than A.P. Indy. But “Glad Rags,” we can all agree, had a cooler name.
This is apparently what they call Bob Baffert’s youngest son Bode. Are you noticing a trend here? Incidentally, the young Baffert is actually named after Bode Miller, a friend of Bob Baffert’s and a dubious role model. I’m looking forward to Bodemeister giving half effort at the Derby and then looking disinterested during interviews.
Not the 90s boy band, but still: Dr. Kendall Hansen, his namesake and an absolute narcissist, owns this horse. Scarily, he makes Bob Baffert look modest.
This would be in the Top 10, if it didn’t sound like an Arena Football League team.
14. Done Talking
15. Creative Cause
We think “Done Talking” was designed simply to make life difficult for the Derby’s TV announcer, who will presumably be talking if “Done Talking” is leading the field in the home stretch. And the lack of creativity in “Creative Cause” is highlighted by the fact that the word “Creative” is in it.
When you go for the one-word name, it better bring the heat. None of these do.
19. Daddy Nose Best
Bad wordplay alert!
20. Daddy Long Legs
This is what a four-year-old would name a horse. It is the name of another animal. It explicitly describes one of the horse’s prominent features. THIS ANGERS ME, AND I WILL NOT BET ON YOUR HORSE, SIR.
Gemologists deal with gems and gemstones, and I think even they would acknowledge that their profession is unremarkable. There is nothing exciting about being a gemologist. There is nothing intimidating about being a gemologist. So let’s name our horse after gemologists!
There you have it: the most exciting names of the Derby are the ones based on scary Celtic bedtime stories, the mafia, and booze. Which… sounds about right.
Enjoy the race, everyone.
Agree? Disagree? Be sure to follow Dan Spritz on Twitter, and write shouty, all-caps tweets about naming conventions at him.