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In honor of the Kentucky Derby last month, Karen Given reported a story on Only a Game about the naming of thoroughbred horses. At the end, the radio show’s host, Bill Littlefield, did a  funny imitation of calling a race. I won’t be able to do it justice. You’ll have to listen to the clip.

“Since 2004,” Given reports, “Rick Bailey has been the registrar for the Jockey Club, and he really enjoys the creativity he gets to witness in his job. Bailey and his staff review about 40,000 names every year and approve two-thirds to three-quarters of them. The numbers add up pretty quickly.

” ‘We do have 350,000 to 400,000 names that are considered active,’ Bailey says.

“With that many names off the table, maybe owners are just running out of normal horse names to choose from? …

“The list of available names is getting bigger, Bailey says, because the horse racing industry is getting smaller.

“There will never be another Secretariat or Seabiscuit. Those names have been permanently retired. But the names of less successful horses are eventually released. Bailey publishes those names on the Jockey Club’s website every year. This year, that list included more than 45,000 names. …

“The list includes Bambi le Bleu, Fabulous Rex, and Zippity Doodah Day. …

“Most ancient horses, says [Philip Sidnell, who has written the book on ancient warhorses], are named for pretty mundane reasons. Take the horses who ran in the ancient Roman chariot races.

” ‘They had names like “Swift” or another called “Snotty” and one called “Chatterbox.” ‘ “

Listen to Littlefield showcase some unusual horse names in the clip, here. “It’s Cookie Monster, Maple Syrup and Spineless Jellyfish  … Cookie Monster is hungry on the outside …”

 Photo: Only a Game

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