Rules for Naming a Racehorse

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A mare and foal run together in a paddock.
BetMGM @BETMGM May 08, 2023, 8:11 AM

There have been some spectacular racehorses in recent years. Racehorse names such as Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Red Rum, Man o’ War and Frankel will sound familiar even to those who are not particularly interested in horse race betting, online sports betting or even watching horse racing. 

These names will no doubt be remembered for a very, very long time to come. Naming a racehorse is one of the most enjoyable parts of owning one, but choosing the name isn’t as straightforward as you may think. Owners need to consider quite a few strict rules when exercising their right to name a horse.So, how do you name a racehorse? And what are the rules owners have to follow when they name a horse? Let’s find out.

Names Must Be Approved by the Jockey Club

Any new foals destined for the races must be registered with The Jockey Club. The Club has been the main hub for horse racing administration since its founding way back in 1894. 

All horses are given the birth date of January 1st of the year they were born, but they’ll need to have been given an official, registered name by February of their second year. If they don’t have a name by then, owners must pay a late name and registration fee.

Owners are required to submit six different names to The Jockey Club for consideration. The rules The Jockey Club uses to ensure that every horse has a unique name that ticks all the boxes and adheres to the rules detailed below.

Names Must Not Exceed 18 Characters and Seven Syllables

The name may not be longer than 18 characters, including spaces and punctuation. This is why you’ll often see horse names such as “Shutthefrontdoor” without any spaces! Although it would be difficult to find a name with 18 characters or less that has seven syllables, it’s still something to keep in mind when naming a horse. It’s also worth noting that you can’t use initials in a name either.

A Name May Not Consist Entirely of Numbers

You simply can’t name a horse 1234567 or any other name that’s made up entirely of numbers. However, what you can do is name your horse any number above 10, to be written out in full, which means it’s entirely legal to name your horse “Fifty-five.”

You Can’t Use a Name off of the Restricted List

While a name doesn’t have a great deal to do with what makes a great racehorse, remember that it’s something a horse will always be remembered for if they are successful.

All those famous racehorse names we mentioned at the beginning of this blog are on the restricted list. Famous racehorse names may not be used by any other horse ever again. This is to stop people from capitalizing on the fame of their successful predecessors.

You Can’t Use a Name That’s Already in Use

The name of every horse registered to race must be unique, so owners are not allowed to give a horse the name of another horse in the industry or one that has raced or bred in the previous 10 years. In the cases of stallions, names can’t be used for 15 years after they’ve stopped breeding.

Names that aren’t on the restricted list may be considered if the horse has been dead for five or more years.

A Horse Cannot Be Named After a Real Person Except Under Certain Circumstances

Although horses can be named after people, there are rules to consider.  Firstly, the horse may not be named after a famous individual. Secondly, a horse may not be named after a person who’s been dead for less than 50 years – unless the owner has obtained written permission from the deceased’s family.

No Horse-Related Terms

A name can’t contain any horse-related terms. This includes things such as “filly,” “colt,” “mare,” “stallion,” and so on.

A Name May Not End in a Numerical Designation

A racehorse name can’t end in a numerical designation such as 1st, 2nd or 3rd.

The Name Can’t Have Any Obvious Commercial Value

No one should stand to gain from a horse’s name and as such, it may have no commercial value. This is to ensure that companies and people don’t use successful racehorses as a form of advertising. No one wants to see “Twitter Inc.” win the Grand National.

Horses May Not Be Named After Any Course, Race or Graded Track

“And here comes Kentucky Derby to go on to win the Kentucky Derby!” That just doesn’t sound right, does it? Horses may not be named after any races, courses or graded tracks. It would simply get too confusing.

Names Must Not Be Vulgar, Suggestive or in Poor Taste

The Jockey Club is incredibly strict about ensuring that horse names are not offensive to anyone. They can’t be suggestive, vulgar, obscene or at the expense of any race, religion, sexual orientation and anything in between.

Two recent horses that have slipped through the net on this one are the South African horse “Hoof Hearted” and the French horse “Wear The Fox Hat.” Both these horses brought great delight to spectators listening to the race commentary!

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.