What's in a Name?

I don’t know about you guys, but when it comes to handicapping a race, the name of a horse is a huge factor for me. Even though I can read a program and tell you what each statistic means, and whose past performances are the best, the name still stands out above everything else on the page.

Second to a horse’s name are its connections, whether or not I’ve ever talked to them or met them, what I remember about them, and whether I feel they deserve to win. While these bets don’t always make me a lot of money, it’s all the more exciting if the horse does well, because I’m genuinely happy for those directly connected to her. And, in general, betting on a horse that means something to you is a lot more fun.

With that said, I’ve spent some time over the last week researching the meaning behind the names of some of this year’s Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) possible contenders so that you too may have some feeling behind your bet come April 30. I’ve also listed some fillies that were originally pointed toward to Oaks, but will now be taking another path this spring. Finally, I’ve also included each filly’s ranking (as of April 14) on the graded earnings list for the Oaks, which is limited to 14 starters. Please keep checking back, as I will continue adding fillies and updating this list as more information becomes available.

1. Jody Slew (12th on graded earnings list with $188,179)

Jody is the name of the wife of the filly’s former owner, Larry Lay of Jenna Lee Farms, who purchased her as a yearling. “Slew,” of course, derives from Jody Slew’s sire, Slew City Slew.

Jody Slew has a record of 4-0-3 from 10 starts. She won this year’s Tiffany Lass Stakes and Silverbulletday Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds.

2. Harissa (currently 24th on graded earnings list) 

“Harrisa is a spice used in a lot of Moroccan and Arabic cooking that my Lebanese mother used to use when I was a kid, and secondly, Mt. Harissa is a shrine to the blessed virgin in Beirut,” said owner Dr. John Waken, a retired pathologist who races Harissa in the name of his Arcadia, Calif.-based stable Gem Inc. “There’s a cable car ride you can take all the way to the top, and they have a statue and shrine up there. I thought it was a nice name. I almost named one of my daughters (Harissa), but I was touted off of it.”

Harissa has a record of 2-2-1 from seven starts. She scored her big win last out in the March 28 Sunland Park Oaks.

3. Sheer Beauty (currently 22nd on graded earnings list with $128,770)

“When I looked at her, I really liked her, and I came up with that name,” said trainer Bernard Flint, who co-campaigns the filly in the name L.T.B. with Miles Childers. “You want to pick a good name for a good horse, and I always try to do that, and when I saw her, she’s just a doll. She puts her head on your shoulder, and she’s like a pet. She’s got a wonderful disposition. That’s 95% of a racehorse is having correct disposition, and she certainly has that.”

Sheer Beauty has a record of 3-0-3 from seven starts. She won the Feb. 26 Green Oaks Stakes at Delta Downs and most recently ran third in the Fair Grounds Oaks. 

4. Devil May Care (currently fifth on graded earnings list with $399,000)

"(Devil May Care) is a new James Bond book that came out a couple years ago,” said John Greathouse, who campaigns the filly in the name of his family’s Midway, Ky.-based Glencrest Farm. “It’s also an old term (meaning careless, reckless, or happy-go-lucky), but I thought, ‘Well, before they jump in and freeze me out from getting this thing, I’ll go ahead and take it.’

I read the (James Bond) book (published in 2008), and its based 45 years ago. I thought, ‘They’ll never make a movie out of this one!’ I’m a big James Bond fan. We like to have some fun with the names. (Devil May Care) is a big, strapping filly. She’s the kind of filly that looks like a colt.”

Greathouse noted how he’s used some of the other James Bond girls to name his horses in the past such as Honey Ryder, a two-time grade I winner and Kentucky champion on the grass, who was named after a fictional character in the 1962 Bond film Dr. Noe.

Devil May Care, who has won three of five starts, most recently took the March 20 Bonnie Miss (gr. II). She turned in a bullet work at Palm Meadows training center April 11, covering four furlongs in :47.40.

5. Amen Hallelujah (currently sixth on the graded earnings list with $352,370)

“(Amen Hallelujah) was born eight days before my son, Jake, who’s now 3 years old,” said Stan Whisenant, who co-owns the filly in the name of his Heath, Texas-based Whizway Farms with IEAH Stables. “My son was just getting to where he talked…he would say prayers with his mother at lunch and dinner, and while I was always taught that you just say ‘Amen’ at the end (of the prayer), for some reason, he started saying, ‘Amen Hallelujah!’ At the time, he was only a year and a half or 2 years old and pronounced it ‘Amen Hallewoowa!

“(Amen Hallelujah) is paying for (Jake’s) college now. I don’t think he understands the meaning of that, but I say, ‘You better cheer for Amen Hallelujah, because she’s paying for your college.’ ”

Amen Hallelujah, who has a record of 4-2-2 from nine starts, won the Jan. 16 Davona Dale Stakes (gr. II) at Gulfstream Park and the Santa Ynez (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park, and finished runner up to Devil May Care in the Bonnie Miss.

6. Beautician (currently ranks fourth on the graded earnings list with $514,291)

“She’s sired by Dehere (pronounced da hair), get it?” said owner Florida-based owner Peter Callahan with a laugh. “She’s also named after all the men and women across the country who make it a beautiful place. All the (beauticians) that bet her (to win) unfortunately haven’t had much to show for it so far. I’m going to have to increase my tip when I go to get my hair cut, because my barber is burning a lot of dough.”

While  Beautician has won only once in eight starts, she has been second four times in graded company, including last year’s Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and Spinaway Stakes (gr. I). In spite of a disappointing eighth-place effort in the April 3 Ashland Stakes (gr. I), Beautician had a bullet work at Churchill April 13, when she covered four furlongs in :47 flat.

7. Crisp (currently ranks eighth on the graded earnings list with $252,120)

Crisp is named after a term on workout sheets that describes impressive morning performances.

“I would hear the word, ‘She had a crisp workout,’ and I kept saying, ‘That’s a neat name,’ but I felt for sure that it would have been taken,” said owner Michal Talla, who lives in Los Angeles. “But I submitted it, and lo and behold, nobody had ever named a horse Crisp. I thought it was a great name for her. She does work great in the morning. Leading up to this race, she had two bullet works at Hollywood Park.”

Crisp has won three of five starts, including the Jan. 10 Santa Ysabel Stakes (gr. II) and March 6 Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) last out at Santa Anita.

8. Quiet Temper (currently ranks third on the graded earnings list with $567,300)

The filly is named after Lexington-based owner Mark Stanley’s college-aged daughter Alex, whose temper has gotten sweeter with age. Stanley has named several of his fillies after Alex’s ever-changing disposition, including graded winners Swift Temper, Pleasant Temper, and Quick Temper.

Quiet Temper, who has a record of 3-4-0 from eight starts, most recently won the Fair Grounds Oaks.

Here are some fillies whose names either derive from their sire, dam, or a combination of both:

Last year’s Juvenile Fillies victor She Be Wild (by Offlee Wild), currently ranks first with earnings of more than $1.3 million.

Blind Luck, a two-time grade I winner in 2009, who captured the Feb. 13 Las Virgenes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, ranks second on the list, with earnings of more than $1 million. She is by Pollard’s Vision out of the Best of Luck mare Lucky One. 

Evening Jewel, the surprise Ashland Stakes winner, ranks seventh on the list with earnings of $410,600. She is by Nothern Afleet--Jewel of the Night, by Giant’s Causeway.

Sassy Image, by Broken Vow, out of the Hennessy mare Ideal Image, ranks ninth on the list with earnings of $312,184. A two-time graded stakes winner at 2, she most recently captured the Jan. 17 Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

Joanie’s Catch, who has had a seasoned career of 2-8-6 from 18 starts, has not won a race this year, but finished runner up in a trio of graded contests at Gulfstream Park. Currently ranking 10th on the graded earnings list with $374,790, She is by First Tour—Caught Speeding, by Saint Ballado.

Here are some fillies that were originally pointed toward the Oaks, but are now going in a different direction:

Christine Daae (named after a Phantom of the Opera character because of the white mask on her face), who broke her maiden by an eye catching 8 3/4 lengths in January, is now pointed toward the June 5 Acorn Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, according to trainer Patrick Biancone.

Diva Delite, a grade III winner this year at Tampa Bay Downs, is now slated for either the May 1 Eight Belles Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill or the Black-Eyed Susan Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) at Pimlico May 14, according to trainer Ian Wilkes. 

No Such Word, winner of the March 13 Honeybee Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park, is also being pointed toward the Black-Eyed Susan. Bret Jones, son of the filly's owner Brereton Jones of Airdrie Stud, explained No Such Word's name:

“My dad’s father, who was always his mentor, and probably the greatest influence on his life, used to always tell him that there was no such word as ‘can’t’ in their house.”


Leave a Comment:


I am with you.  I pick them by their name, their breeding, and their connections.  Usually do pretty good...bad thing is I can also be turned off by the critera.  For instance, Big Brown.  Didn't like the name, came to not like IEAH, and Dutrow became a boor, liked his Dad, tho.  Also, the talking heads began to really sour me.  You got to thinking that there was only one horse in the Triple Crown, especially by time we got to the Belmont.  But I go on....Picking by just the name for the Oaks I am going with....Amen Hallelujah, but by your article I will be rooting for Sheer Beauty.  Thanks for your research!!

15 Apr 2010 11:38 AM

That was great...

15 Apr 2010 11:44 AM

The names are always important to me...although of course, I look at the records too! A distant uncle of mine has a filly/mare named Rio Rita. After he bought part ownership without consulting his wife, Rita, he got to (re)name Rita after her to apologize. I've been watching the names of Oaks/Derby season contenders. Amen Hallelujah is a good name. I'm in Texas and we say "amen" a lot. :) As for the Derby horses, if a Kitten goes down in the list of winners I'll know something's wrong. :p.

15 Apr 2010 11:51 AM
Matthew W

If Crisp wins the Oaks I'll say "Amen Hallelujah"! I took an Oaks flyer on her in the futures---she's a nice filly--but there are a few other nice ones this year--Pletcher has a nice one, and Blind Luck is always there, by Pollard's Vision, I guess there's not much of a story there--she's a tiny filly/but good....

15 Apr 2010 2:30 PM

This is fun! I've often been turned off by a horse's name. Rightly or wrongly it's hard for me to bet on a horse with an ugly name. Also if I find the connections insufferable.

Regarding Blind Luck, wasn't her sire Pollard's Vision blind in one eye? (Hence his name and hers.) And YES! Matthew W, she is very good. These closers really get to me!... Big (as in Zenyatta) or small (a la Mine That Bird) :)

15 Apr 2010 5:13 PM

Thanks for another interesting, enjoyable article, Esther.  Like you, I can understand what all the numbers in the past performances mean, but very often it is still the name and the connections that gets my money.  Obviously, I'm not much of a gambler, but I like cheering for a horse and or/people that I can feel connected to other than just a bunch of numbers.  Yes, the more astute handicappers would not appreciate my lack of skills at all, so I'm glad to read that I'm not alone.

15 Apr 2010 7:19 PM

Love the names, especially ones that show the pedigree. Thanks!

15 Apr 2010 8:35 PM

I did quite well on ubet by looking at the sire, jockey and morning line. If the name was good in addition I had a win most of the time. I was always surprised at how well this worked until I had made $$$ over many months.:)I don't like hardly any of the names in this article.Jody Slew sounds like an ax murderer, Devil May Care is not very feminine, Beautician reminds me of the smell of bleach, Crisp sounds like pastry, Joanie's catch sounds like she's been fishing instead of racing, and No Such Word is just plain awful. Sheer Beauty and Evening Jewel are nice and that's about it! Isn't it great to live in America and be able to spout off like this? LOL. In case you guys are wondering my faves are Zenyatta, Invasor, Cat Dreams,  Barbaro, Candy Ride, Icy Atlantic, Spectacular Bid, and the totally awesome STORM CAT!!Triple Crown coming up!!!!!!

15 Apr 2010 8:38 PM

Why I love the names of racehorses!! So unique!

15 Apr 2010 9:58 PM


16 Apr 2010 2:53 AM

I agree names are important.  I always cringe when i hear a name like "istingood" or run on names like "nownownow".

What are some owners thinking?

16 Apr 2010 6:55 AM

Names are important, but some people put no thought into it. There are some really terrible names out there. Years ago,does anyone remember, Waste Of Feed and Hamburger? Horrible!

16 Apr 2010 8:18 AM

The only way Devil May Care loses the Oaks is if the jockey falls off. They are all running for 2nd.

16 Apr 2010 9:15 AM

nice article!... these stories are very interesting... my doctor had a colt based at Oaklawn named Big Star... he had high hopes for his good-looking colt, plus as a little tribute to the classic cult pop/rock band from Memphis by the same name... his colt was never a "big star"...

16 Apr 2010 10:12 AM
Linda P.

Great article! We always try to be creative when naming our horses, as well as giving them strong racing names, without just relying on parentage. I have also won more than a few bets based solely on liking a horses name or having something in my life to relate it to.

Remember, though, "Cigar" was probably the stupidest name ever for a horse--until he won 16 in a row!

16 Apr 2010 10:54 AM

I love racing names!  My favorite is still Santa Claus trained by the late great MVOB.  My mare is named Prickley Pines (Quiet Fling, bred by John "Jock" Hay Whitney in second crop of Nijinsky by Peace (think Zembezi Sun).  Her dam was Song of Iowa (Dawn Flight by Grey awn II out of Silver Sari ( dam of Big Spruce)out of Torcrest Ensign (Conn Symthe breeding).  When I am sipping my Esprit de Nijinsky Cab, I start coming up with my serious "what if" Prickley were of breeding age, what would I name the foal?  My serious list includes Mir - name of Russian Space Station means Peace; Siochan - Gaelic for Peace; Siochan Leat - Gaelic for Peace be with you; Peace and Quiet - Sire and his dam.  My fun list includes Pussy Galore - femfatale from early Bond movie (Ian Fleming-Charles Engelhard connection); Don't Bite Me - she is a diva!; Prickley Heat; Prickley Pear....well you get it!

16 Apr 2010 2:27 PM

Love these stories explaining the horse's names - always so interesting.  Thanks!

16 Apr 2010 3:46 PM
Steve B

There is a filly named Bella Diamante. Beautiful diamand in French. Watch for her in the Oaks.She has close to 180,000 in earnings.

16 Apr 2010 4:33 PM

Amen Hallelujah is also a brand of peanut butter and a hymn by Handel. Great article.

16 Apr 2010 8:04 PM

While Blind Luck seems to top everyone elses list, I like Quiet Temper, Jody Slew, and Amen Hallelujah..(though I'm not certain Amen wants that distance). Amen is a big filly, but she seemed to tire in her last race.  

17 Apr 2010 4:39 AM

Names are cool in general.  

But, it's the accomplishment that makes the name even more special.

If Secretariat wouldn't have accomplished what he did and only ended up a bottom claimer @ Beulah Park, no one would've thought anything more about him.

17 Apr 2010 10:11 PM

Easy Oaks-Derby double this year--

It's all about luck--

Blind Luck to Lookin At Lucky

Just no bad luck and they will win !   lol

18 Apr 2010 3:56 AM

Wow looking at Age of Humors pp's and working with Deans Kitten in a Sat work how is Age Of Humor not on this list. Another maker 40/1 winner?

18 Apr 2010 12:59 PM
Esther Marr

Thanks for all the great comments so far! Sorry it took me awhile to post some of them...I am off on Fridays because I'm in the office on Sundays writing stakes stories.

18 Apr 2010 1:32 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


  You're scaring me. That's the way I am. I hate to bet on a horse whose name I don't like. If I like the horse to win, I'll probably pass the race rather than bet the horse. Yeah, it's cost me a few dollars.


  Nice article. I often wonder where the name comes from. Maybe it should be in the past performances !!! Many are obvious-they're copied from the sire, dam or damsire, or someone in the family line. I like the names that make me laugh, and you wonder, "how did they come up with that name !!!" I'll come back with some names for you to research if you want something to do.

19 Apr 2010 9:58 AM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Why did they name a male "Dubious Miss???"  I like the name Bushwhacked, out of Posse. The owners probably like watching or reading Westerns. The cowboy era. They could name one-Heademoffathepass. What's the max letters you can use in a name???

19 Apr 2010 10:12 AM

Dr D....18..includes spaces...which is why Pioneer of TheNile was squished up.  And maybe the Dubious Miss was not a Ms as in female....but a miss as in the loss of a dead heat by a nose hair..that's certainly dubious...just like Schoolyard Dreams lost to Odysseus.

19 Apr 2010 3:10 PM

How about It's Tea Time?  Any story on her name?

19 Apr 2010 5:26 PM
Mike Relva


"Cigar" isn't a stupid name!

19 Apr 2010 7:56 PM
So Cal Racer

name..name..game.. very interesting concept, I like name that gets attention sometime it work out and sometime not, Devil may care but I said Amen Hallelujah to that... can I hear Amen..

19 Apr 2010 8:30 PM
Dr Drunkinbum


   Thanks for the info. I think you're right about Dubious Miss. Makes a lot of sense now that you explained it.

19 Apr 2010 8:46 PM
Spicer Willits


Agree with you about "Hamburger" as an awful name for a race horse. However, there was a horse in the 1890's named "Hamburg" - probably named after the city, not the sandwich - who not ony became horse of the year, but was part of a four-generation tail-male horse of the year "chain": Hindoo, Hanover, Hamburg, Burgomeister. There have been a few three-generation chains (for example, Reigh Count, Count Fleet, Counterpoint or Seattle Slew, A.P. Indy, Mineshaft, but does anyone know if there were ever any other four-generation chains?

19 Apr 2010 10:35 PM

Crisp was the name of a British steeplechaser who won the Grand National in 1973.

20 Apr 2010 1:29 PM

I just checked and I was wrong, he did'ntt actually win the race but was still a great racehorse.

20 Apr 2010 1:31 PM

Spicer, I can't think of any other four-generation chains, although Bold Ruler-Secretariat-Lady's Secret was one of the three-generation ones.  Although, if you count other countries, you've got Nearctic-Northern Dancer-Nijinsky-Ferdinand.

21 Apr 2010 12:03 AM

Ciger was not named after a smoke, but after an aeronautical juncture...owner was a pilot.

Dr. D: Consider...I probably wouldn't put $$ on a horse that was "Dubious".  Those nose-hair losses can be draining on a wallet. (so why I liked Congaree...I can't explain...guess there just has to be more to a horse than just his name)

21 Apr 2010 10:32 AM

A 3 generation experience...She Be Wild by Oflee Wild by Wild Again.  Neat name history!

And how many Mr. Prospector's progenny follow that same mining aspect?

21 Apr 2010 7:19 PM

IMHO, some of the most clever names are those from Claiborne, mostly one-word names.  Here's a few you can look up to see the logic that's always there .....

Pulpit, Yarn, Edge, Stroll, Rove, etc, etc, etc!!!!!  When I see a one-word name, I always check to see if it's a Claiborne bred!

22 Apr 2010 1:02 AM

Dr. D, I will be at Paul McGee's barn Thurs-Sat of Derby week, and will ask how Dubious Miss got his name .... will let you know what I find out.

22 Apr 2010 1:10 AM

Not a filly, but I think the cleverest name of the year has got to be Drosselmeyer:

by Distorted Humor out of Golden Ballet (damsire Moscow Ballet->by Nijinsky II->by Northern Dancer).

I love looking for the progression/combinations of names in pedigrees!

22 Apr 2010 9:35 PM
Steve B

Allen Milligan trains a filly by the name Bella Diamante.I have seen her run several times and believe she is a contender in the Oaks.How about a report on her.

23 Apr 2010 7:25 PM

A few years ago, Win Star Farm had a "Name The Colt" contest and I won!  A Meadowlake dam and Victory Gallop stallion.  My entry was "Win Victus"  Win--for Win Star and Victus ( which means Victory in Latin").  I knew it was a longshot name. They loved the name and my husband and I won a round trip flight from Ca. and lodging for 5 days,dinners out, a tour of the farm, and a day at Keeneland for the Queen Elisabeth Stakes.  What a whirlwind trip it was, and a horse lovers dream!

Some people loved the name, and others hated it, or didn't get the meaning.  Nonetheless, my Win Victus went on to win races at Arlington, Hawthorne, Fair Grounds and other tracks.  They sent us every winners circle picture too.  This is the good part, his trainer was Shannon Ritter who trains ENDORSEMENT in the Ky. Derby this Sat. She loved my WV and tried to make him her track pony, but said, he only wanted to get in line and head for the starting gate with the racing horses.  He is now retired and lives down the road from Win Star in the care of one of their staff.  

So that's my "name story" and it was a great ride!!  

27 Apr 2010 8:56 PM
Shary Saurer Gregory

I believe I know this beautiful gal.  I can see her love for horses is truly a love affair.  way to go girl!  I would love to see a picture of Win Victus.

01 Sep 2010 9:04 PM

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