Many don't go by first name

Identity: The odds of getting the name you want for a horse are sometimes long. But for every Preakness competitor, there's a story behind it.

May 15, 2004|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Rock Hard Ten was a yearling, running in a field with others his age when owner Madeleine Paulson came to stand at the fence with the Mercedes Stable manager.

"We looked at those horses and saw him, and we just said, `Wow!'" said Paulson by phone from California, as she recalled how her Preakness horse got his name. "I looked at him and said, `He's a 10!' And, of course, in slang, everything is rock hard. He's a Rock Hard Ten."

The name was approved by The Jockey Club, which sanctions the names of thoroughbreds after an owner submits six proposals.

Naming, Paulson said, can be rewarding, as it is right now, but it can also be frustrating.

"You name so many of them after friends and such and then get so disappointed when they never make it," she said. "You give them great names and no one hears of them. But Rock Hard Ten is a great name for a horse, and he really is a fabulous 10.

"At Santa Anita, here, the fans were chanting for him, `Yeah! Rock Hard Ten.' It was so much fun."

It seems everyone has a different way of naming their racehorses. Little Matth Man, you might think, was named for someone who was good at math but not spelling, and you wouldn't be far off.

Owner Vincent Papandrea names his horses after his children, trainer Martin Ciresa said.

"His son Vinny was born 12-12-96, and he learned to be a math whiz at a very young age," Ciresa said. "The horse's sire is Matty G, so the horse was named Little Matth Man, combining Vinny's accomplishments with the stallion's name."

Almost everyone by now has heard the story behind Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones' name. The horse, owned by Roy and Patricia Chapman was born on Feb. 28, the same day as Patricia Chapman's late mother, whose maiden name was Jones and who as a child was nicknamed Smarty.

Lion Heart was named by his co-owner Derrick Smith, who was inspired by the horse's sire, Tale of the Cat. Lion Heart combines the biggest cat with the biggest heart.

Song of the Sword's name comes from combining his sire's name, Unbridled's Song, with his dam's, Appealing Ms Sword.

And Sir Shackleton was named for British explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton, who led a 1914-1916 expedition of Antarctica, and who is admired by owner Tracy Farmer.

But Borrego, who is owned by five men, including trainer and breeder C. Beau Greely, wasn't named for anyone.

"Borrego is the Spanish word for horns," Greely said. "He had two calcium deposits on his head that look like horns. He still has them. It is a somewhat unusual."

Maryland-bred Water Cannon got his name because of a news report.

"My wife [Cynthia] names all our horses," said Charles McGinness of Thormar Farm, where Water Cannon was born. "She was thinking of names, trying to figure how to combine the name of his sire, Waquoit, with his dam, Crying in the Rain. It wasn't easy. Then, one night, she was watching the news and they showed a film clip of police using a water cannon to control a riot. Water Cannon. She thought that would work, using the W from Waquoit and water from Crying in the Rain."

McGinness lamented that while his wife comes up with many great, inventive names, they are often thrown by the wayside.

"We sell all our horses," he said, "and half the time people change their names. They can do that before they run their first race. But in this case, the new owners kept it. I hope he wins."

No one knows how Imperialism got his name, but trainer Kristin Mulhall said, "He does live up to it."

And trainer Mark Hennig said he didn't know how Eddington got his name, either. He speculated he could be named after a town in Vermont or England, and then laughed. "The last time someone asked me that I said, `Haven't you ever heard of the guy who invented electricity, Thomas Eddington?' Hey, that's a joke."

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