Naming A Racehorse

Naming A Racehorse


Racehorses tend to be named by their breeders in this country as a form of identification. After going through the process of gathering an assortment of possible names, generally more than one name is then submitted to the National Horse Racing Authority, for approval and registration. After the horse’s parentage has been verified by DNA tests and vaccinations confirmed, a passport for the horse is issued so that he may be sent to sales to be sold (without a passport a horse cannot race). There are various thoughts on naming horses with the most common being a combination or derivative of either one or both the stallion and the dam’s name, and this is always an easy indication at the races of a racehorse’s parentage. We will look at the some of the rulings below when it comes to naming horses.

It is interesting to note that the great Secretariat’s name was in fact the eleventh choice after numerous rejections, submitted by Meadow Stables secretary.

Whilst everyone would like a fairly regal name for a racehorse, Paul Lafferty did cause some controversy by changing his very good (and now sadly passed on) filly from Labrietta Quo to Goat and she went on to do very well for herself at the track. He also has the half-sister to Goat in training, now aptly named, Another Goat.

Dubai Millenium Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum sent a 2 year old colt named Yazaar to his trainer David Loder, and Loder came back to say he was the most talented 2 year old colt in training. The Sheik had reserved a special name for a horse with the potential to win the Dubai World Cup in 2000, and he changed the colts name to Dubai Millenium. The Sheik realised his dream with Dubai Millenium who subsequently won the Dubai World Cup in 2000. Dubai Millenium (now deceased) is incidentally a half-brother to Hobb Alwahtan standing at Selsley Stud in KZN.

There is also the superstition that it is bad luck to change a horse’s name.

Going back in the early days of the Thoroughbreds, there were certainly some odd and controversial names which are still seen in pedigrees today such as “Black Servant ” (foaled in 1918) and “Pot-8-O’s” who happens to be by the great Eclipse, and foaled in 1773.

Seabiscuit (the definition of this name is a sort of hard, saltless biscuit, also known as hard tack, formerly eaten by sailors as a staple aboard ships) in fact seems quite apt, as his sire was named Hard Tack.

Pot-8-O's Mike de Kock mentions in his book about Horse Chestnut the fact that the big chestnut horse ‘from Africa’ had been given such an “obvious” name – when in fact it was a reference to a Horse Chestnut tree with the champion being by Fort Wood.

Summerhill Stud have come up with an ingenious idea of allowing the public who access their Facebook Group to assist with name suggestions for their Thoroughbred yearlings and it has become a very popular and exciting concept to get the public involved, even more so that you might be naming a potential champion. Summerhill Stud in the last few years have taken to giving their horses Zulu names which is most fitting for the seven-time KZN based Champion breeders, with the likes of Nhlavini, Igugu(AUS), Imbongi amongst others.

The National Horse Racing Authority have kindly forwarded some of the rules they have for naming horses, and they state: “The Book of Registered Names of Horses, which lists all names that are NOT available is published annually.” The NHRA have an informative website filled with information regarding the publications, racing, studbook and laboratory processes.

They have a section where breeders are able to see what names are available and potential names are able to be reserved, subject to the NHRA’s approval, although the National Board has the power to refuse any name.

Horse Chestnut - Drakenstein Stud Their document also states: “Names appearing in block capitals are those of celebrated horses which included the leading sire and leading stakes winner of each year and horses that appear in the International List of Protected Names. Such names are reserved in perpetuity.” A few of their rules appear below:

Names Not Available

  • Those appearing in the current Book of Registered Names of Horses
  • Those consisting of more than 18 characters or spaces. (Including punctuation marks but not the country code suffix)
  • Those of well-known persons – (unless written permission is given by the person or descendants of the person concerned)
  • Those with similar spelling or pronunciation to those already registered.
  • Those consisting entirely of numbers or initial letters or both.
  • Those given for obvious advertising reasons.
  • Those in bad taste or which have an unacceptable connotation in another language.

A few other notes with regards to names include:

Igugu(AUS) - courtesy Gold Circle

  • Numerals may not be used to differentiate between the names of two horses (It is interesting to note that Nijinsky II had to have “II” added as a suffix to his name, as when he was imported another horse in the country had already been given that name).
  • A named horse imported into South Africa shall have the suffix of its country of foaling added to the name.
  • An unnamed horse imported into South Africa shall be named after registration and the suffix of its country of foaling shall be included in its name – an example would be Igugu(AUS).

On rare occasion, you might see a horses name with the suffix (SNL) or (SSL). SNL means “sired north of the line” and SSL “sired south of the line”. These are horses who have been conceived overseas, either in the northern hemisphere or southern hemisphere and their dams imported here and the horse foaled in this country.

Change of Name

A registered name shall not be changed except by special permission of the National Board and then only on payment of the prescribed fee. Should the National Board require a name to be changed the fee will be waived.


Breeders , Owners and/or Trainers must immediately advise the National Horseracing Authority of the death of any horse under their control.

Foreign Names

When a foreign word is requested for the name of a horse, a translation into English must be submitted.

Thanks to the National Horse Racing Authority for their assistance with information for this article.
Their website can found at

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