Where did they get that name??

"Hello! My name will be _________________ ."/Photo by orava/iStockphoto

Here in the nexus of Yankeemania and Red Sox Nation, in the days leading up to the 2010 Kentucky Derby, a local TV sportscaster stumbled over the name of the former Derby favorite.

After the sports anchor paused, he pronounced the horse’s name – in the fine tradition of “rip and read” – by how it’s spelled. “Esken-der-E-ya.” (a capital letter denotes the long E.)

Mercilessly, my husband and I doubled up in fits of laughter. We happily made things worse by taking some cheap shots (like “REEd S-O-ckz!” Bwahahahaha!)

Still, some of those racehorse names can sound and look a little crazy.

How to Name The Ponies

Here are the Jockey Club’s rules for naming thoroughbreds. Be sure to scroll down to point F, which will give you a good idea of what’s involved in naming a race horse.

Let’s just say that it’s tough to come up with something under 18 letters that hasn’t been used before. According to the Jockey Club Online Names Book, there are 445,000 names in use.

“The Names They Give Them” – a book

A book I happened to pick up during my various equestrian-related travels explains the background of various thoroughbred racehorse names.

“The Names They Give Them” was compiled by J. B. Faulconer and edited by Jim and Suzanne Bolus.

Faulconer was the first full-time publicity director for Keeneland Racecourse and is credited with creating the Eclipse Awards. Jim Bolus was a Kentucky Derby historian and former secretary of the National Turf Writers Association.

Their book lists the origins of the names for more than 1,000 thoroughbreds. I believe it is out of print, although you might find the book on a shelf in serious horse industry locales or equestrian-related gift shops.

No doubt, a quick flip through the pages of the book shows that Boluses and Falconer had contacts.

In fitting with our theme here of “horses and culture,” plus this post’s focus of unusual names, I decided to look up 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee.

Not surprisingly, there’s a movie connection. But other considerations went into his name, not just fond memories of the cuddly alien star of the 1982 Hollywood hit.

Here’s what “The Names They Give Them” says about Lil E. Tee:

“Named for his tendency to stray from his mother, then scream for her across the field. That tendency to ‘phone home,’ like E.T., … was combined with ‘Lil” for the initials of Larry I. Littman’s farm, where the colt was foaled.”

And now, for the call of the race …

I stumbled upon a fun article with videos that will have you doubled over in fits of laughter, thanks to Problogger.

Usually, horses aren’t on the agenda at Problogger, but a guest post by Regator co-founder Kimberly Turner listed a horse-racing-related lbog post in her new weekly blogging trends column that featured how videos are used on blogs.

Enjoy! A couple of these videos of race horses with funny names sent me into howling laughter.

So, what about Esken– what’s-his-name??

According to the New York Racing Association, Eskendereya is the Arabic translation of Alexandria and is pronounced s-ken-DREY-uh. The “der” is “silent.”

Whew! Honestly? After a bit of confusion from web-surfing, I was worried. I’m just glad I didn’t have to learn how to pronounce “hubris.” 😉


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