Originally created 05/08/00

Get hip to it: Foo-sah-EE-chee

No one ever stooped to calling the 1977 Kentucky Derby winner just "Slew." Same with "Bid" two years later.

The latest horse to wear the roses, Fusaichi Pegasus, has plenty of people tripping over his name.

Some are simply dropping "Fusaichi" -- that's pronounced foo-sah-EE-chee -- and resorting to calling him plain old "Pegasus."

ABC Sports reporter Charlsie Cantey may have opened the gates when she went to the winner's circle after Saturday's race. Before interviewing jockey Kent Desormeaux, Cantey tried three times to pronounce "Fusaichi," eventually gave up, and asked if she could just stick to the horse's second name.

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton also mangled the horse's name in the post-race ceremony.

Several others in TV and radio had a hard time too, either going just with Pegasus or deliberately sounding out -- one syl-la-ble at a time -- "Fusaichi."

And with two legs left in the Triple Crown, it's a name that is sure to be mispronounced over and over.

"All over the track, all week long, people were pronouncing it differently," ABC Sports vice president Mark Mandel said.

"We went over it in a production meeting, trying to get everyone on the same page."

The horse's name combines Japanese slang with Greek mythology -- and he's not the only colt with "Fusaichi" in his name.

Owner Fusao Sekiguchi came up with the first name by combining his own first name with "ichi," which means "No. 1" in Japanese, while Pegasus is the name of the winged horse of Greek mythology.

There's also a Fusaichi Concorde and a Fusaichi Grace.

Fusaichi Pegasus posed no problems for Dave Johnson, who called his 23rd consecutive Kentucky Derby for ABC.

"I split it into two syllables in my mind. I just put a hyphen in there," Johnson said in a telephone interview Monday.

"I heard the people surrounding the horse call him that. That's how (trainer) Neil Drysdale calls him. In fact, this was easier than some of them in the past."

Bob Sheppard, honored Sunday for his 50 years as the New York Yankees' public address announcer, offered similar advice: "My pattern for 50 years has always been to go to the athlete and ask personally how to pronounce his name.

"That obviously can't happen with a horse."

Before the race Saturday, Johnson joked on the air about the tongue-twisting nature of the favorite's name, saying, "You say 'Fusachi.' I say 'Fusichi.' Let's call the whole thing off."

It wasn't even easy in print, apparently. Some writers resorted to the nickname "Fu." USA Today, in a story Monday referring to pronunciation difficulties, provided a mistaken guide: "FU-A-EE-CHI."

There have been tougher names to handle, Johnson said.

"When I was the announcer in Illinois in the '60s, there was a horse named Cabejo. I thought the pronunciation should be 'ca-BEH-ho.' It sounded like the Spanish word for horse," Johnson said.

"The owner came up to me after the race and said, 'Hey, it's not "ca-BEH-ho." It's "CAH-bee-jo." The horse was born in a cabbage patch.' So you never know."

Many past Kentucky Derby winners have made things simple for announcers: Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Real Quiet, Charismatic. But they also didn't make things quite as fun.

ESPN's late-night edition of SportsCenter on Saturday opened with anchor Steve Berthiaume introducing himself and cohort John Anderson by saying, "I am Fusaichi Berthiaume, he's Fusaichi Anderson."


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