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.”

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