Oaks Name Game: 2012 Edition

Every year I try and write a blog with name meanings of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) fillies, and this year is no different. I’ve said in past years how I often base my handicapping off of horses’ names, and there are some particularly interesting ones in this year’s field.

The Oaks has drawn a full field of 14, with one filly, Oaks Lily, waiting in the wings as an “also eligible” if one of the other contenders should scratch.

One of my favorite name stories comes from Brereton Jones’ homebred filly Believe You Can, who is 10-1 on the morning line and will break from post 9 under Rosie Napravnik.

Believe You Can

“(The name) actually came from my father, who is deceased, but he was a very positive thinker,” said Jones. “As I was growing up, he would say things like, ‘Don’t ever tell me you can’t do it, because I’m never going to tell you to do something you’re incapable of doing.’ "

Jones went on to tell the story of the time he played football for Point Pleasant High School in West Virginia and his team went up against the undefeated Barboursville High School.

“My father felt we could actually beat that team, so he had these signs made that said, ‘Believe you can, and you can,’ ” said Jones. “So he took those around the high school…it was kind of embarrassing at the time, but he put them in the hallway, gymnasium, and locker room. I’ll be damned if we didn’t beat Barboursville.”

Jones said he decided to name Believe You Can after his father’s saying because he had a special feeling about the filly from the start.

“I liked her very much…we didn’t name her until after we bought her back at the sale,” said Jones about the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) winner, who is trained by Larry Jones. “I said, ‘I believe she could really be a good filly, but the market didn’t agree with me. So that just kind of came to mind, ‘Believe you can and you can.’ ”

Here are some of the other name meanings for this year’s Kentucky Oaks-bound fillies:

Amie’s Dini
Amie’s Dini is named for co-owner Mike Walker’s granddaughter Amie, and gets the Dini (pronounced Deanie) from sire Bandini. Jon Court will have the Oaks mount aboard the Martha Washington Stakes winner and Fantasy (gr. II) runner-up, who drew the 13 post.

On Fire Baby
Owner/breeder Anita Cauley said trainer Gary Hartlage had made a comment at the races one day about one of Smoke Glacken’s offspring saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

It was then that the pair came up with the name for their Smoke Glacken filly On Fire Baby, who is out of Cauley’s Gilded Time mare Ornate. The Honeybee (gr. III) winner, who is listed at 4-1 on the morning line, will break from the rail under Joe Johnson.

Grace Hall
Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) winner Grace Hall is named after a famed wrestling arena in Bethlehem, Pa., in the Lehigh Valley. Co-owner Mike Caruso, a three-time NCAA wrestling champion at Lehigh University, used to compete at the facility during his younger years.

The wrestling arena Grace Hall was chosen by USA Today as one of the top five indoor venues for college sports in the nation. The arena was built specifically for wrestling in 1939 by Eugene Grace, who was president of Bethlehem Steel Corp.

When trainer Tony Dutrow found out the new practice facility at Grace Hall would be named after Caruso in honor of his wrestling accomplishments, the trainer insisted they name their newly purchased filly after the facility.

Grace Hall, the 5-2 favorite in the Oaks, will be ridden by Javier Castellano and will break from post 2.

Old Hat (gr. III) winner and Beaumont (gr. II) runner up Sacristy’s name derives both from her sire and sentimental reasons.

“I was brought up in the Episcopal church and the little room behind the pulpit is called the sacristy,” said owner John Fort, who hails from Atlanta and races Sacristy in the name of his Peachtree Stable. “It was just a natural name, with her sire being Pulpit and her dam being Christies Treasure.”

Fort will attempt to win his second straight Oaks with Sacristy, who drew post 7 and will be ridden by Mike Smith. The owner won the Run for the Lilies last year with Plum Pretty.

Karlovy Vary
Owner Alex G. Campbell Jr. named Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Karlovy Vary after a small city in the Czech Republic where two of his close friends reside.

“They say it’s the most beautiful town in the Czech Republic,” said Campbell. “If I ever have the opportunity or the money, I think I’ll go over there and visit.”

Trained by Rusty Arnold, Karlovy Vary will break from post 11 under James Graham.


So tell me, who do you like this year in the Oaks? Do you bet on horses based on their names or for sentimental reasons?

While I’ve found you don’t always make money on these types of bets, its all the more meaningful when you do!


Leave a Comment:


Hard Not to Like.

(no explanation needed)

01 May 2012 3:43 PM

I like Believe You Can's story the best...but I try not to root against Mike Smith too much so I think I'll be going for Sacristy! :-)

01 May 2012 4:09 PM
Criminal Type

I bet on horses for both reasons. Sometimes it's all in a name, while others spark some sort of sentimetality. Like Karlovy Vary. I will  have to place a few dollars on her because of Dynaformer. I love Grace Hall but it has nothing to do with her name. It's all because she is an Empire Maker filly and I LOVE his daughters, that simple. Again, the sentimentality comes out with On Fire Baby because she is sired by my favorite son of the old man of Maryland, Two Punch. Loved that horse.  

My choice for the Derby has nothing to do with any of that stuff though. Haven't you ever just fallen in love with a horse as soon as you see him ? It's a deep down feeling I have that this horse is going to be very special. I felt it when I watched him break his maiden. I still feel it, 4 more days and We will know. GO RAGS !

01 May 2012 5:09 PM
Mike Monarchos

I like On Fire Baby. Gary Hartlege is a nice guy and a great trainer. Good luck Gary. And Dennis Stone good luck to you too. It' s been awhile since I've seen ya buddy. Hope all is well.      Mike

01 May 2012 5:29 PM

Since my nephew coaches wrestling in Pennsylvania, I'll just have to place a bet on Grace Hall to win.  It's a family thing.

01 May 2012 7:00 PM
Alexandra Boyd

I like Hard not to liken the Kentucky oaks for a couple reasons. One she is a Canadian bred. Two she is by one of my favorite racehorses Hard Spun. And third what a good name for a beautiful racehorse. HARD NOT TO LIKE.

01 May 2012 7:18 PM

I like And Why Not based on her pedigree - love the old King Ranch female family, and I heard that her trainer isn't too shabby either. But now that I know WHAT Karlovy Vary means, I will be rooting for her also, in honor of her sire, Dynaformer.  Wishing a safe trip to all.  

01 May 2012 9:57 PM

It would be such a shame if Oaks Lily does not make the field. Please someone scratch so that she can get in!

01 May 2012 10:56 PM

The best name is Hard Not to Like - and she is just that.

02 May 2012 1:25 AM

Sacristy.  Clever use of the dam's name and I LOVE Pulpit!

02 May 2012 10:58 AM

Besides being aresort town, Karlovy Vary, Carlsbad in German, Charles' Hot Springs, is noted for it's internationally-acclained film festivals and the most delicious of mineral waters, Mattoni!

It would have been a treat for those of us of Czech ancestry should Rosie Napravnik have ridden Karlovy Vary, a filly slightly short on the numbers but not on heart.

02 May 2012 2:29 PM

Believe You Can - who echoes the sentiments of No Such Word. Let your attitude determine your altitude ...

02 May 2012 5:44 PM

It's Hard Not To Like (really love) a Hard Spun filly.  He was my favorite in 2007!

03 May 2012 4:28 PM
Criminal Type

Terri, I love Hard Spun too. That was the last derby I bet, until tomorrow. I really like Hard Not to Like. I've followed her career and she's done well, and as much As I would love it if she won, I think she is overmatched against this bunch. She is however my fourth horse behind On Fire Baby, Grace Hall, Karlovy Vary and Hard Not to Like. This Oaks is like the Derby, half the field could win.

04 May 2012 6:28 PM

Recent Posts

More Blogs