The Uncommon Life

Kentucky Derby Party Idea: Horses Can’t Spell, aka Name Your Fantasy Thoroughbred

April 29, 2016

Dear UncommonGoods and Kentucky Derby fans: We know you don’t need any more mint julep recipes. We did a search for them and came up with 600,000 pages of results. We wanted to dream up a more creative Kentucky Derby Party idea… and we think we succeeded.

Illustrated with our unique collection of Kentucky Derby drink gifts, authentic Kentucky Derby accessories and a handmade wood Kentucky Derby Game, here is our Official 2016 Kentucky Derby Party Idea. 

First, some background. On May 7, at 5:34 p.m. and 6:34 p.m. Kentucky time,* 20 elite equine athletes will bolt from their starting gate stalls and, watched by more than 16 million people, spend two adrenaline-flooded minutes galloping toward the Churchill Downs finish line. Among these magnificent creatures will be:

Nyquist, named for Detroit Red Wings right wing Gustav Nyquist. The horse’s owner is a diehard Red Wings fan who has named several of his horses after players on the team.

Mohaymen (مهیمن), an Arabic word meaning “dominant.” His owner is Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai. He owns another Derby horse as well,

Shagaf (شـَغـَف), which means “fondness” or “passion,” so named because the sheikh was so taken with his classy looks as a yearling.

Some of the Derby horses’ names need no explanation:

Gun Runner
Awesome Speed

The names of the most famous Thoroughbred race horses of all time include Secretariat, Man O’ War, Seabiscuit, Black Caviar, Ruffian, Citation, Native Dancer, Affirmed, I’ll Have Another, and California Chrome. The first Kentucky Derby, on May 17, 1875, was won by Aristides, a Thoroughbred named after an ancient Greek general.

Over 118,000 Thoroughbred foals are registered each year worldwide, and each of them needs a name. In order to avoid confusion in the racing and breeding industries, The Jockey Club, which is in charge of these things, established strict naming rules.

Names can’t be longer than 18 characters or seven syllables. They can’t be the same as, or even similar to, a name that another horse has, or that any “distinguished” horse ever had. They can’t be suggestive; offensive to religious, political or ethnic groups; infringe on a trademark; or be the name of an actual living person, unless that person gives you their permission. (When she was First Lady, Barbara Bush granted the use of her name for a filly, on White House letterhead, no less.) A name can’t be made up of just initials, or just numbers. Etc.

Last year’s winner, the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978, was American Pharoah. Yep, Pharaoh is spelled wrong. Nope, not on purpose. It was a typo. Nobody noticed until it was too late.

A 64-year-old nurse from Missouri named Marsha Baumgartner submitted the name in an online contest the stable held to name its 2-year-old horses. Because a race horse’s breeding is so important to its chances of becoming a champion, many Thoroughbreds’ names refer to their immediate ancestry. “American Pharoah” followed this model. The horse’s sire was Pioneerof the Nile [sic], and his dam’s sire was Yankee Gentleman. His owner is Egyptian-American. Perfect–except for that spelling. But as Baumgartner pointed out, “Horses can’t spell.”

Inspired by Ms. Baumgartner’s story, as well as the sheer poetry and wit of these names, we made up some names for an UncommonGoods stable of fantasy Derby horses. We strictly followed the naming rules; or at least, the ones we could remember. In our fantasy, our horses would never race. They would do whatever they felt like, eat the finest organic grass, and fertilize organic gardens.

We hope you’ll steal our idea for your Kentucky Derby party, and tell us about your names in the comments below. Making fun (politely) of the names we came up with is not only permitted, it’s encouraged.

In alphabetical order, our top 10 fantasy UncommonGoods Thoroughbred names are:

Birthday Present
Designed to Win
Ethical Jewel
Satisfied Customer
Shipped So Fast
Uncommonly Good
Uniquely Gifted
Won Of A Kind

Fortunately for them, none of the beautiful creatures running this year’s Derby will have to endure being called by any of these silly names.

*Eastern Kentucky is in the Eastern Time Zone and Western Kentucky is in the Central Time Zone.

Race to our Derby gifts!


  • Reply Milan April 29, 2016 at 6:18 pm

    a few from Team Tokens:

    Follow Wallau

  • Reply Marisa May 2, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Dear Milan / Team Tokens,
    Ha! We’re so pleased that you got into the spirit! They sound like real race horse names.
    Thanks for posting.

  • Reply Elise Feuerstein May 2, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Zithromax – actually a drug, and actually better for a death metal band, but it’s still my first choice.
    Go With The Flow
    Roan Warfare
    Greased Lightning
    City Slicker
    Turf Surfer
    Snark Attack
    Thunderdome Princess

  • Reply Jerome Lassiter May 2, 2016 at 8:40 pm

    Fast Gin Fizz
    Classy Girl

  • Reply Amy Tukowski May 3, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    Baby Panda (Everyone loves pandas.)
    Global Warning

    • Reply Marisa May 4, 2016 at 11:22 am

      The immense awesomeness of all these names are blowing our minds. Thank you, dear commenters!

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