ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. - What's in a name? Plenty of interesting tidbits about horses running in the Breeders' Cup. There's a centerfold, a movie character, a hockey player and an English soccer star.
Some names of the 90 horses in today's World Thoroughbred Championships are downright eye-catching.
Like Buffythecenterfold, named for Buffy Tyler of Irvine, Calif., a Playboy playmate in November 2000. Her magazine pictorial impressed Allen Brian, who needed a name for the 3-year-old filly he co-owns.
"I tried naming horses after my friends and family over the years. They never turned out any good," said Brian, owner of a construction company in Santa Ana, Calif. "So I figured, let's go for something with some appeal. I bounced the idea off my girlfriend and she was fine with it, so I was fine with it."
Buffy the bay-colored horse will run in the Juvenile Fillies. Buffy the woman won't be at Arlington Park, but she saw her namesake win a stakes race at Del Mar in August.
Brian paid Tyler a $1,000 appearance fee, which he said was worth it since the winner's circle pictures turned out great.
The Tin Man, a 4-year-old gelding who'll be in the Turf, was named for the The Wizard of Oz character. Owner-breeder Ralph Todd got the idea after watching a television rerun of the movie.
"The Tin Man is on the Yellow Brick Road," trainer Richard Mandella joked.
Rick Tocchet, who played for the Philadelphia Flyers, could take a rooting interest in Toccet, his namesake in the Juvenile race. The colt's name was misspelled in a bookkeeping error when he was registered.
It'll be athlete versus athlete in the Juvenile. One of Toccet's rivals is Van Nistelrooy, named for Ruud Van Nistelrooy, a 26-year-old European soccer star.
Both the horse and the player were costly acquisitions.
Van Nistelrooy the colt was purchased for $6.4 million as a yearling; the soccer player transferred from his Dutch team to England's Manchester United in a $30 million deal.
Another Juvenile contender is Whywhywhy, named for trainer Patrick Biancone's son, who as a youngster asked why all the time. The family started calling him Whywhy, but that name wasn't available, so Biancone added an extra 'why' to the horse's name.
The Jockey Club oversees the naming of horses. There are lots of rules involved, some of which put a lid on creativity.
For example, no name can be more than 18 letters; names of living persons can't be used without their written permission (Tyler, Tocchet and Van Nistelrooy complied); and nothing suggestive, vulgar or having obscene meanings is allowed.
Horseplayers scanning programs also won't see names of dead people unless special approval is granted. Titles of books, plays, movies and popular songs are banned unless owners provide proof that the copyright has been abandoned or hasn't been used in the past five years.
The $4 million Classic, the richest race on Saturday's card, features Came Home and Medaglia d'Oro, two of the better horses in the field.
Came Home got his name after coming home from three consecutive sales in which he failed to reach his reserve price, which is a good thing since he's earned more than $1.6 million this year.
Medaglia d'Oro was originally known as Bay Latte. After the owners' daughter returned from Europe where she was drinking Italian espresso, they renamed the horse.
Kalookan Queen is running in the Sprint. Owner Luis Asistio, a former senator from the Philippines, named the horse for his hometown and queen is an affectionate reference to his wife.
Dennis Richard of New Orleans, who owns Bonapaw in the Sprint, had his first two choices turned down by the Jockey Club. He asked for Mirror Image and Lookalike, references to him and twin brother James.
"Now I'm aggravated," Richard said of the rejections. "I'm looking at the two names of his daddy and mommy, Sabona and Pawlova. I come up with bona and paw. That's how we got Bonapaw."
He said Bonapaw isn't a name that fits the 6-year-old gelding. "Even trainers ask, 'How you come up with a name like that?"'