How are horses named and who approves them?

Race horse names can be notoriously cheeky but there are very strict guidelines owners must follow in order to get approval

How are horses named

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Naming a race horse must be one of the most exciting moments for an owner. The opportunity to be a little too cheeky with their naming – does anyone remember Noble Ox and Passing Wind? – is obvious, but generally most owners that work in horse racing are sensible enough to follow the guidelines around race horse names.

When it comes to horse racing betting many casual punters rely on the name over anything else to place their wagers. Of course, there is no real telling how successful a horse will be based on its name alone. But there are sometimes clues in a name to the connections and lineage of said horse.

So how do horses get their names? In our latest Demystifying Racing guide, Paddy Power looks at the process to naming a race horse… and what the rules are about taste and decency!

How to name a race horse

All horses intended for racing or official breeding must be registered and given a proper name. To name a race horse, owners must apply via Weatherbys, which holds the register for all thoroughbred horses in Britain and Ireland within The General Stud Book, and be subject to approval by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA).

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The Weatherbys register contains the names of thousands of horses and acts as a reference guide to ensure there are no name clashes.

Owners can register their horse’s name either online or via a form. The registration sets out the details of the horse, including colour, sex, year of foal and names of its sire and dam. There are two boxes to provide a horse’s name (in case the first is rejected) and an opportunity to outline the meaning of the name.

Owners must also pay a £173 registration fee for the horse’s name. One the application has been accepted and approved, the horse can officially run under its name.

Restrictions to race horse names

There are various restrictions owners must be aware of when deciding to name a race horse. These include:

  • Internationally protected names – Some horse names cannot be reused. Around 3,000 ‘internationally protected’ names exist, including Frankel and Red Rum
  • No duplicates – A horse cannot be given the name of a current horse in the Weatherbys register. The register contains around 250,000 names from all over the world
  • Character restriction – Horses cannot have a name longer than 18 characters, including spaces
  • Taste – The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has the final approval of all application for names. Any names that include swear words or other distasteful language is rejected
  • Copyright – An owner has the responsibility to check if the horse’s name would infringe of commercial copyright rules. For example, it’s highly unlikely a horse names Pepsi would be accepted, but if it were then the owner could be liable for copyright infringement
  • People – A horse cannot be named after someone either alive or dead for less than 50 years, unless the owners have permission
  • Endings – Names cannot end in ‘filly’, ‘mare’, ‘stallion’, ‘colt’, ‘stud’ or other horse-related terms, nor can they have numerical designation, such as ‘3rd’ or ‘1st’
  • Retirement – The name of a previous horse cannot be reused until five years after said horse’s retirement

Weirdest horse names in history

Naturally down the years some people have tried to sneakily get horse names past officials. Hoof Hearted is perhaps the ideal punned name, where the naughtiness is hidden within horse-related terminology.

Other strange race horse names include:

  • Waikikamukau (pronounced ‘why kick a moo cow’)
  • Noble Ox
  • Mywifenosevrything
  • Thewifedoesntknow
  • Horsey McHorseface
  • Passing Wind
  • Two In The Pink
  • Odor in the Court
  • Potoooooooo

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