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Naming a Thoroughbred Racehorse

Have you ever wondered how racehorses get their names? Some of the chosen monikers seem very strange don’t they? The odd names are doubtless the result of those registering them trying to conform to the strict regulations. You may have thought of the perfect name for your horse but that doesn’t mean that you will be allowed to use it.

Birth & Parentage

All thoroughbreds have an official birthday of January 1st. The owners must register them with The Jockey Club within a year of their actual birth and must now have a DNA tested to verify their parentage. Both parents must be registered and the foal may not be the result of artificial insemination.

Choosing a Thoroughbred Name

When an owner comes to name their horse, they must submit six choices in order of preference to The Jockey Club. They will decide which name is acceptable for use. There are strict rules that the owners must adhere:

  • Names can have a maximum of 18 characters including spaces and punctuation. This explains the somewhat strange name of Grand National runner 'Shutthefrontdoor'.
  • The club do not permit initials so, you cannot choose I.O.U or F.O.B.
  • Names may not end with 'filly', 'colt', 'stud', 'mare', 'stallion' or any similar horse-related terms.
  • Names may not consist only of numbers, unless the number are above thirty and you spell it out. So, you could name a horse 'forty fifty sixty'.
  • Names must not end with a numerical designation such as '1st' or '2nd' even if you spell out this designation. In consequence, you cannot name a racehorse 'King Charles 2nd'.
  • A racehorse’s name must not include the name of a real person or someone who has been dead for less than fifty year unless their written permission or the permission of their family is provided.
  • No names of race tracks or graded races can be included so it is not possible to name a horse 'Aintree Hero'.
  • Names must not have any obvious commercial significance. Michael O’Leary cannot name one of his horses 'Ryanair'.
  • A name must not include suggestive, vulgar or obscene words and meanings and should not be in poor taste.
  • Names should not be offensive to any religious, ethnic or political groups.
  • You can not give a racehorse a name that features on the restricted list. This list includes the winners of major races and the names of famous horses that have  officially retired to honour the horse. There will never be another 'Frankl'!
  • Names currently in use and similar names cannot be reused until five years after the horse has retired from racing and breeding.

More Restrictions

These are the principle rules but there are other restrictions. When you consider how many thoroughbreds are registered, it can be difficult to come up with something that is acceptable. There are usually around 250,000 names in use. You can check on the whether the authority have reserved your chosen name or if it is currently in use.

Trying to get authorities to approve naughty names has become something of a sport in itself. But attempts at cheeky names rarely succeed. They have previously rejected names  including 'Ben Dover', 'Biggus Diccus', 'Penny Tration', 'Ophelia Balls', 'Ho Lee Fook', 'E Rex Sean' and 'Sofa King Fast'. Good luck!


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