Originally created 05/02/00

What's in a horse's name?



Impeachment, the second colt in the Dogwood Stable Kentucky Derby entry, is named for, you guessed it, President Clinton's political troubles of 1999.

But what the moniker does is offer up an explanation of how horses get named.

The Jockey Club serves as thoroughbred racing's name registrar, of which there are about 440,000 active names in the present database. Owners submit up to six name choices when they buy a horse, and The Jockey Club has the final authority to accept or reject a name.

The most common reason for rejection is the name is either in use, retired or too phonetically similar to another horse. There is a long checklist that all names must meet, the first being that it cannot be longer than 17 letters or spaces.

Names of "notorious" people; names having commercial significance; copyrighted names; and suggestive or vulgar names are rejected. The system is not always fail safe, as when a horse named Bodacious Tatas was approved.

Names can be punchy, they can describe an area, they can be a clever twist. To name a horse after a person, the owner needs written permission, as Dogwood Stable president Cot Campbell did with Charley Trippi.

Most names, though, are basic derivatives from a combination of the horse's sire and dam. For example, 1979 Kentucky Derby winner Spectacular Bid was sired by Bold Bidder out of Spectacular. A horse in Impeachment's lineage includes Hail To Beauty, sired by Hail To Reason out of Lipstick.

Some of the clever names include: Skip Trial (by Bailjumper); Prenup (out of Homewrecker); Inside Information (by Private Account); and Odor in the Court (by Judge Smells).

A similar line of thought can be seen with Impeachment. His dam, or mother, was named Misconduct. Misconduct's sire, or father, was Criminal Type. This seemed a natural progression for Dogwood Stable secretary Diane Smith, who suggested "Impeachment" to Campbell.

Once Campbell purchases a horse, he gives his Aiken-based staff and his family the opportunity to think of names.

"At the time we bought Impeachment, that was the main headline in every newspaper," Smith said. "Every day, Clinton was on the news and they talked about how was going to be impeached. All you needed to do was to look at his lineage to think that would be a natural."

Only Impeachment was Campbell's third choice; top two picks Warden and Misdemeanor were already in use.

There are 13 active horses with "Impeach" in their names, including Impeachable, Impeachable Affair and Impeached.

Names may be recycled only if the horses were not used for breeding and are older than 10 years old.

And a name can be retired if the horse achieves a certain level of prominence, including winning a classic stakes race, winning an Eclipse Award or accumulating more than $2 million in money.

Rest assured, there will never be another Secretariat, never another Summer Squall.