At this time of year, we are focused on two year olds-ones we already have, and ones we are about to buy, at the Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland auction sales.
The latter group will need names, unless they already have names, in which case we invariably change them. It is fun naming horses, although not easy. It would be like picking a mate, or a necktie, or a dessert. We don't all go for the same thing, and there is no right or wrong. But, come to think of it, there are some names that are definitely wrong for a majestic racehorse. How about Bally Ache or Oink?
We get all sorts of suggestions for great names, but the problem is that if the name is so good, so logical, it has probably been gobbled up in the last five years, and is thus unavailable. It is a name that has probably been submitted by ten people each year.
At Dogwood, we have a contest to name the new horses. The barn and office employees submit names, we check them out with The Jockey Club to see which ones seem to be available, and the eligible ones are then submitted to the naming committee of one (on which I am honored to serve as chairman!), and we send in the top three choices to The Jockey Club. The winner then receives the princely sum of fifty bucks. Not a good way to build your financial portfolio, but it is fun.
We like to name horses for people, but that can backfire. I named one for a business partner once, and the horse was absolutely useless. My partner seemed to think that I had carefully selected a dud to carry his name. But happily, I named one for my wife, Anne Campbell, and she turned out to be Broodmare of the Year, and was sold at public auction for several million dollars. Whew!
I like to name them for sports figures. We've had Dempsey, Babe Ruth, Abebe Bikila, Schoolboy Rowe, Sam Huff, Johnny Blood, Lou Brissie, Trippi and lots more. Trippi was a famous University of Georgia football player. The horse was lightning fast, and became one of the great sprinters of his era. He went to stud and sired many a good horse. We bought some of them and named them for guys who had played on the same Georgia team as Charley Trippi. Sadly, horses named Sinkwich, Poschner, and Racehorse Davis could not outrun me!
We once named a colt for the fine, old Yankee outfielder, George Selkirk. Because, he was fast and agile, the player's nickname was "Twinkletoes." Thus, the horse was named Twinkletoes Selkirk. When presented to prospective partners, the name seemed to reek of femininity and no one wanted to buy a share in him. We changed the name to something more conventional, and quickly syndicated the horse. Later, we named a Grand Slam colt Giambi, for the great home run hitter, Jason Giambi, then with the New York Yankees. When presented to a typically avid Boston Red Sox fan, that prospective partner almost had apoplexy over our effrontery.
Surprisingly, two of our most popular names were Chauffeur Botrelle, and Johnny Kongapod. Perhaps because phonetically they are fun to say. Chauffeur Botrelle was the name of a parachute jumper in an aerial circus in the twenties, and Johnny Kongapod came from the inscription on a tombstone in Australia: "Here lies Johnny Kongapod. Have mercy on him gracious God. As he would on you if he were God. And You were Johnny Kongapod!"
But generally it is not wise to select complicated foreign names, precious though their significance may be to you. Remember --the track announcer is going to have to struggle with the name, and he will probably butcher it
It does seem true that good horses really seem to have good names. Secretariat was a great name for a great horse. So was Cavalcade, so was Whirlaway, Citation, Man o'War. But I think Seattle Slew was just a mediocre name for a great horse. A clever name, once you understand it, was Bad News (Bad news travels fast. Get it?).
Then, of course we return to Oink and Bally Ache, great horses with bad names. But fortunately the horses don't know what their names are.
This is Cot Campbell and this is my view.