How are Racehorses Named?

When South African racehorse Kommetdieding won the July Handicap, one of South Africa’s premier races, his trainer, owner and jockey became household names. The one question that always seemed to be a favourite was how the horse received its name. Owner Ashwin Reyolds explains that Kommetdieding is an actual South African term for “bring it on,” or “I’m not afraid of you,” and as we all know now, Kommetdieding defied the odds to win the historic Durban July and Cape Town Metropolitan double, the two most prestigious races in South Africa.

How are Racehorses Named? There are several methods to name a horse, but one of the most prevalent is to name a horse after its ancestry. Some racehorses are named after one side of their ancestors, while others are named after the mother, or “dam,” and the father, or “sire.” Of course, you always have the exception, like Kommetdieding.

Because no horse may have the same name, owners must be imaginative to develop something unique. Owners are not required to provide a horse’s lineage and name a horse after a favourite area, activity, nickname, term, phrase — or nearly anything else.

Some names may be inspired by pop culture or current events, but owners are not free to name a horse after a natural person. To name a horse after a natural person, permission has to be sought from that person. In the early 1990s, a famous example occurred when a horse in the U.S.A. was named Barbara Bush and consent was received from the first lady herself on the official stationery from her Office.

Naming a Racehorse – The Procedure

The Club’s approval procedure starts when an owner proposes a name. The name will be input into a computer system, and phonetics will be checked to ensure that no other horse has been registered with the same or similar name. Aside from being distinctive, a name must also match a slew of additional criteria, according to the regulation.

Names cannot be wholly composed of initials such as C.O.D. or F.O.B. or comprise of more than 18 characters, including spaces and digits. The owner cannot propose names of racetracks or graded stakes races or names that could be construed as suggestive, offensive, designed to harass or have a vulgar or obscene meaning.

Some names are given “permanent” status by the Club, which means they can never be registered for another horse. This honour is bestowed on the names of the most renowned and successful racehorses, such as California Chrome and Man o’ War.

Regardless of its exact birth date, every thoroughbred racehorse becomes a 2-year-old on the second of January 1, and racehorses require names as 2-year-olds. Trainers and grooms frequently give the horses nicknames or refer to them by their mother’s name and the year they were born before that age.

Naming a Racehorse – Challenging but Lighthearted

Naming a racehorse can be both a fun and a challenging undertaking. A horse must be registered with a unique name that will stay with them for life to race under the rules of the Jockey Club. This differentiates each horse in a race and enables bloodlines and pedigrees to be tracked more readily.

The horse must also be named if the owner intends to breed with it once it has retired from Racing. The horse could either be a broodmare or stallion or, if they wish to register any descendants with Weatherbys, the organization in charge of processing racehorse names.

Weatherby processes and completes the majority of applications within one working day. There are various regulations governing racehorse naming that must be followed to submit a valid name application for a horse:

  • A maximum of 18 characters, including spaces and punctuation, may be used in a name.
  • Initials are not allowed.
  • Names must not include the words “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare,” “stallion,” or any other horse-related phrases.
  • Names may not be made up entirely of numbers unless the number is more than thirty and is spelt clearly. So, for example, you may call a horse “Forty forty.”
  • Names must not conclude with a numeral indication like “first” or “second.”
  • A racehorse’s name cannot contain the name of a natural person or someone who has been deceased for less than 50 years unless their written consent or the approval of their family is obtained.
  • There may be no names of racetracks or graded races.
  • Names must have no apparent commercial relevance.
  • A name must not include provocative, vulgar, or filthy words or connotations, and it must not be in bad taste.
  • Religious, ethnic, or political groups should not be offended by names.
  • A racehorse cannot be given a name from the restricted list. This list covers notable race wins and the names of legendary horses who have been formally retired to honour the horse.
  • Names presently in use and similar names cannot be reused until five years after the horse has retired from Racing and breeding.
  • All names are subject to the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) clearance.
  • It’s also worth noting that roughly 3,000 names are globally protected, which means they can never be used again, with Frankel being an example.
  • The current registration has around 250,000 names. As a result, before submitting your application, be sure that the name you seek is not already in use.

Naming a Racehorse – Restrictions and the Privilege of owning an Equine Athlete

When it comes to naming a horse, the owner must submit six options in order of preference to The Jockey Club, who will select which name is appropriate for usage. People like getting dirty or improper names past the naming staff, but their efforts are seldom successful. Ben Dover, Biggus Dickus, Penny Traction and Ophelia Balls have previously been rejected names.

Frankel is one of the most well-known horses globally, particularly in Racing. Sir Henry Cecil, his late trainer, wanted to honour late trainer Bobby Frankel, who died from cancer, by naming the magnificent horse Frankel after him.

Whether the owner had named their horse Frankel or Kommetdieding, all an owner would want from their horse is to remain sound through its career and try and be the best racehorse it can be. If the owner has fun in the process and the horse races successfully throughout its career, then it’s a bonus. If the owner is fortunate enough to own the next Frankel or Kommetdieding, then it’s a privilege.


Hi, I'm James, a long time horse racing fan. I was introduced to racing by my granddad. He taught me a little about horses and I was hooked. I have been to most racecourses in the UK .

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