KY Oaks Name Game: Who's Your Pick?

Like last year, I decided to do a post on some of the Kentucky Oaks contenders and their name meanings, so you can get to know these fillies a little bit better. After reading these meanings, just for fun, tell me which filly out of this group you would bet on solely based on the name factor. Then tell me who you’re really rooting for. :)

I will be adding more name meanings to the list as I find them. It’s a more difficult and drawn-out process than you think!

I mentioned in last year’s post that I’m not the greatest handicapper, because I often let a horse’s name sway me on whether or not I will place a bet on him or her. Am I alone here, or does anyone else fall victim to this method? While I have been lucky some of the time, more often than not, the name game doesn’t work in my favor.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to see where some of these horses’ names originated, so here we go:

Lilacs and Lace (winner of the Ashland Stakes, gr. I):

“I sent Judy three or four names,” said co-owner Kathryn Nikkel of other co-owner Judy Hicks. “(Lilacs and Lace’s) sire, Flower Alley, is named after a street in Barbados…so using the flower (from his name), and her dam Refinement, Judy said she liked the ring of Lilacs and Lace. It was from both of our grandmothers’ influence I guess. Now it’s a household name.”

Kathmanblu (winner of the Rachel Alexandra Stakes, gr. II; most recently third in the Ashland):

“Since she’s by Bluegrass Cat, I was trying to find the name of a city or a song with the word cat, and there is a song called Kathmandu (the capitol of Nepal), and I found that and thought it sounded like a great name,” said co-owner Dr. William Dobozi.

“There’s actually already a horse by that name, however, and there’s also a horse named Katmanblu that’s currently running. So I tried to make (the spelling) a little different so (The Jockey Club) would accept it. We made a T-shirt with her name that says, ‘The H is silent.’ ”

Plum Pretty (25-length winner of the Sunland Park Oaks): 

“I’m a Southerner and it’s a Southern expression,” said South Carolina resident John Fort, who races Plum Pretty in the name of his Peachtree Stables. “If a girl was really sharp-looking, we’d say, ‘Oh, man, she’s just plum pretty, isn’t she?’ I had (the name) tucked away in my mind, and every few years I would check and see if it was available, and it finally became available.”

St. John’s River (second in the Fair Grounds Oaks, gr. II):

“I grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. on the St. John’s River where I used to fish and ski,” said Dede McGehee, who bred the filly in the name of her Heaven Trees Farm. McGehee is best known as breeding dual grade I winner Pany Raid and foaling and raising Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra at Heaven Trees. “I like to name (fillies) where if they have foals, then I have a whole slew of names,” McGehee explained. “There are all those places we went as kids on the river, and I have a whole batch of names now, so when she becomes a broodmare, I’ll be able to name her foals.”

Zazu (winner of the Las Virgenes, gr. I; most recently second in the Santa Anita Oaks, gr. I):

She is named for the 1986 Rosie Vela album released by A&M Records. Zazu produced the mild UK hit "Magic Smile." As noted previously by Ian Tapp of TrueNicks, Zazu is not named for the highbrow hornbill character from The Lion King.

R Heat Lightning (winner of the Davona Dale and Gulfstream Park Oaks, both gr. II):

I’m just speculating on this one, but I would have to guess the name comes from a combination of the first letter of her owner’s last name (E. Paul Robsham Stables), and the name of her dam, Yellow Heat.

Delightful Mary (winner of the OBS Championship Stakes at Ocala Training Ceter; most recently seventh in the Ashland):

"Delightful Mary had her name when we bought her, but interestingly, when we bought her (for $500,000 at the 2010 OBS 2-year-old in training sale), I asked (her owner) John Oxley if she would continue to have that name, and he said his mom’s name was Mary, and she was quite delightful," said trainer Mark Casse, adding that Delightful Mary may run in the May 6 Eight Belles Presented by ACS (gr. III) instead of the Oaks, depending on how she trains at Churchill. "She’s been a joy for all of us, so (her name) was kind of a little omen, right?"

Added John Oxley: "(At the sale) I liked the filly and everything she was presenting, but the name just added to her interest and that was some additional incentive to buy her."

Joyful Victory (winner of the Honeybee, gr. III and Fantasy, gr. II)

"I cannot remember exactly how we came up with her name," said owner Rick Porter, who races Joyful Victory in the name Fox Hill Farms. "I don’t know whether it was a recently released name…I think my assistant who helps me name a lot of my horses might have come up with it, but it doesn’t have any particular meaning that I can remember. It sounded like a good name—'joyful' is good, and 'victory' is good. But I can’t give you a story."



Leave a Comment:


Nice article- I am always curious about the story behind horses' names.

As this article deals with the Oaks, I's like to express my sympathy on the death of Jess Jackson, Rachel's owner.  What a shame that he won't be present to see and name her foal by Curlin next spring.

21 Apr 2011 1:09 PM

What about Joyful Victory? She's the Oaks winner hands down! Is she going to try for the Derby instead?

21 Apr 2011 1:31 PM
Esther Marr

ALB: I have not yet been able to get in touch with Joyful Victory's owner, Rick Porter, but as soon as I do, I will add her to the list!

21 Apr 2011 1:42 PM

if R Heat Lightning is owned by a partnership, R could mean OUR. I have seen that used before.

21 Apr 2011 2:00 PM

I wonder all the time how owners come about naming their horses. You so rarely find out. The one I'm currently interested in is the Repole horse Calibrachoa.

Thanks for this treat. It's such a wonderful idea.

21 Apr 2011 2:03 PM

ALB: I'm with you. If Joyful Victory is in the race, she's my choice.

I understand that Kathmanblu (as well as More Than Real) is a possible for the Coronation Stakes at Ascot.  I still like them both.

Has anyone heard if Wyomia is a possible for the Oaks?

21 Apr 2011 2:19 PM

Still disappointed Awesome Feather will be on the sidelines (obvious where her name came from), but I'm set to see R Heat Lightning take the Oaks. Kathmanblu is one name I've been rooting for since the start of the year and I'm so proud to see her take a 1-horse barn to a million dollar race. I think the Oaks field is more interesting than the Derby this year.

21 Apr 2011 2:22 PM

What about Arienza?

21 Apr 2011 2:26 PM

Joyful Victory is one of the best names I've come across in recent years--dignified and melodic.

Re Calibrachoa, I believe that may be a type of flower, popularly known as Million Bells.

21 Apr 2011 2:31 PM

Well, based on names of the ones listed above, I like Plum Pretty (that whole Southern thing gets me most every time!). Based on who is running, and I hope Joyful Victory is running, she is my pick to win the Oaks. If I have to pick a horse to win from the names listed above, it would be Zazu, simply because of the Mosses. LOVE them! If Joyful Victory is running, then I pick her BOTH on name, even though as of this writing I don't see her name above, I just think it's a great name without an explanation and because I think she can win.

21 Apr 2011 2:44 PM
Esther Marr

Hi guys, I'm loving all your comments so far! There are several fillies that are most likely going to the Oaks that I have not yet included on this list. If I am able to get in touch with the owners of those other fillies, I will definitely add them on here.

21 Apr 2011 2:54 PM

I also forget to say thanks for looking into the names of the horses. This could be a bi-monthly or monthly feature. Always fun to read about the names and where they come up with them. Thanks!!

21 Apr 2011 2:56 PM

I like Plum Pretty for the same southern reasons! Let's hope she's as brilliant as she looked in that Sunland Pk race and didn't just run away from an overmatched field.  Also like Lilacs and Lace for, yet again, the exact reasons stated by the owners.  Plus, I've been to Barbados and have followed the naming process of Flower Alley's offspring out of curiosity. Unfortunately, I don't think either will win the Oaks with the likes of R Heat Lightening, Arienza & Kathmanblu (love "the h is silent" t-shirt idea!)

21 Apr 2011 4:35 PM

Being a Southerner, I like Plum Pretty too.  But, I am sort of sentimental towards Arienza cause I LOVED her mom.  What a pity that she is in Japan now.

21 Apr 2011 5:16 PM
Criminal Type

Love Kathmanblu, The song is By Bob Seger. Also like one not to Team Valor, Summer Soiree. Damn shame she left Larry Jone's barn after the sale, but I like Graham Motion as well, so we shall see how they do. Is she being pointed to the Oaks as well ?

21 Apr 2011 5:46 PM

to me i honestly hink that joyful victory beat arienza, simply because she had more experiance in the fantasy and wasn't a short horse lik arienza was heading into the fantasy, since arienza won her second race, then ran in the fantasy without a time work since before her second race.

21 Apr 2011 6:56 PM
Jean in Chicago

I really like Joyful Victory, but I think Lilacs and Lace sounds like a very classy lady.  'Katmandu' has always been one of my favorite Bob Seger songs and the first thing I thought of when I saw 'Kathmanblu'.

I'm still trying to figure out how poor Uncle Mo got cursed with his name.

21 Apr 2011 7:31 PM

My Oaks pick isn't on your list-yet anyway. I love love love Joyful Victory and oh what a Joyful Victory it would be for Larry Jones and Mr. Porter if she wins the Oaks. I think she's on the verge of becomming a brilliant filly and with Mike Smith up she has it all. He has a special way with the girls. God Speed to all the fillies to stay safe!

21 Apr 2011 7:31 PM

Plum Pretty will be a tough nut to crack in the Oaks. I think that she'll wear down R Heat Lightening and Joyful Victory in the stretch, after those two knock each other out on the front end, and have enough grit to stave off the late rush of Kathmanblu.

21 Apr 2011 7:51 PM


21 Apr 2011 8:20 PM

I have a $40 future bet on Joyful Victory. Usually my future bets end up not making it to the gate so I feel I already have won the race! (AE: Pre Peg) lol I read a article back in January on Joyful Victory where Larry Jones just thinks the world of her and from that point on she has been my Oaks horse. I think Larry Jones is without a doubt one of the best in the country as a horseman. So if he is high on her so am I!! good luck at the windows everyone...

21 Apr 2011 9:01 PM

I love Lilacs & Lace. It's a pretty name, I like names that connect to the sire and/or dam, and she's a Slew granddaughter/Alydar great-granddaughter. What more can you ask for?

21 Apr 2011 10:02 PM

Thanks for taking the time to find out this info. It is fun and interesting! My favorite name above is Joyful Victory and I also think she has a good chance to win.  Dancinginherdreams was my early Oaks choice but unfortunately not after the most recent races.

21 Apr 2011 10:07 PM
John T

Speaking of very cleverly named racehorses I think one of the best in recent memory was Blondinamotel

who won the Canadian Oaks sometime

ago.As we all know the name can be

very suggestive but her sires name

was called Bates Motel and that was

the name of the motel in the Alfred

Hitchcock thriller Psycho hence the name Blondinamotel as who can ever forget that famous shower scene with the beautiful blond,

Janet Leigh. As for this years Kentucky Oaks another Canadian-Bred

filly would sound really nice,Joyful Victory if she can do it.

21 Apr 2011 11:31 PM

How about KARAKORUN ....... There are like 37 horses with that name.

I just found out that it was some region in Kazajstan former Soviet Union. Thank"s Nat Geo

22 Apr 2011 8:17 AM
lunar spook

i must say st. johns river sounds very cool , the best female name i ever heard wsa rachel alexandra , that name just sounds elegant ,classy and rolls off your tongue , great name /great filly !

22 Apr 2011 8:41 AM
Billy's Empire

Summer Soiree. Everyone loves a good party!

On the names alone, I would have to pick Plum Pretty, since I went to college in South Carolina.

I think Kathmanblu will win, but I also really like Joyful Victory. I have liked this filly since last year when she finished a good third to R Heat Lightning and AZ Warrior up in N.Y. I saw her breeding, and being out of Tapit, I knew she was going to develop into a filly that wanted to go a route. Should be a great race.

other Oaks Possibles

Summer Soiree


Bouquet Booth


AZ Warrior


Daisy Devine

Hot Summer

22 Apr 2011 8:41 AM

So many racehorse owners come up with the most creative names!  It's enjoyable just to read the entries for the day's races in the newspaper.  Sometimes I end up following a horse's career just because I like his or her name.

22 Apr 2011 9:12 AM
Pedigree Ann

From Wikipedia:

Calibrachoa is a genus of plants in the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. They are weak evergreen short-lived perennials and subshrubs with a sprawling habit, and they have small petunia-type flowers. They are found across much the same region of South America as petunias, from southern Brazil across to Peru and Chile.

22 Apr 2011 11:07 AM

I raised Daisy Devine as a foal and prepped her for the 2009 September sale.  "Daisy" was always my pet name for her.  Her owners are wonderful people and decided to keep calling her "Daisy," adding the "Devine" part to dress it up, and possibly as a tribute to her dam Devil's Dispute.

22 Apr 2011 11:32 AM

Based just on the info given here: Delightful Mary

22 Apr 2011 11:40 AM

What a great article! I dream of owning a racehorse and I oftentimes try to come up with names for them. It was so interesting to read how these fillies came by their names.

I root for all horses to come back to their stalls safe and sound. Other than that, I have no real favorite in this race, although I tend to root for underdogs. It is nice when a small stable wins big. It keeps the dream going for all of us.

22 Apr 2011 2:08 PM

I gotta love Plum Pretty.  She is gorgeous and just Plum Fast.

22 Apr 2011 2:26 PM
Forbidden Apple

It's about time someone started an Oaks blog. Joyful Victory will be a runaway winner of the 2011 Kentucky Oaks! Larry Jones is in my top 5 of favorite trainers, I took notice when he compared this filly to Eight Belles. At this point I like Plum Pretty and Zazu underneath in the exotics.

22 Apr 2011 2:49 PM

Have frequently bet names and won.

Going with Joyful Victory

22 Apr 2011 7:55 PM
needler in Virginia

ZAZU.....I think she's sitting on a big race; I just hope it's the Oaks and not one scheduled for August!! Besides having the single name, which I'm a fool for, the Mosses own her, and an absolutely splendid fella trains her--- that's good enough for me. The same connections are already fairly well known for the achievements of another pretty good race mare called....errrmmm....lessee..... OH, YEAH!! ZENYATTA! One name, same owners, same trainer.. how can Zazu lose?

Cheers and safe trips to EVERYONE!

22 Apr 2011 9:31 PM

Royal Delta, looked awesome winning at keeneland last week. She would probably win the Derby if she was entered.

24 Apr 2011 12:35 PM

BGB got most of it right... we did keep the name Daisy as she was so lovingly cared for at the farm where she grew up. Devine was added to her name to honor my grandfather Raleigh Devine Peace, who just happens to be Irish. Which, along with an Irish trainer and Irish Jockey may just be the magic in Daisy Devine.

28 Apr 2011 10:13 PM

Jean in Chicago....Uncle Mo is named after a sports term for "momentum". I never place a bet on a horse if the name is bad, no matter how good the horse me works alot! Of course I also look at the sire and the's a winning and fun system I have used for a long time. For the oaks, I gotta go with Joyful Victory, Zazu and em all...planning on making some $$$$  :)

P.S. The derby is a horse of a different color...pun intended...but I've got a BIG LIKE for Midnight mom is Midnight Kiss..try to beat that!lol

01 May 2011 11:01 PM

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