A friend of mine owned a horse named Lady Grasshopper, who had the ability to win a race at a small track where a double-figure bet might wreck the odds.
"I love that name," a woman near the wagering windows said. She had plenty of money and a program.
"It's a cute name all right," the one with her said. This person had no Form, no program. "Let's go bet Lady Grasshopper."
They were well-dressed and didn't have to dig too deep for some twenty-dollar bills.
I didn't know what to say, and almost said, "Please don't bet that one."
I bet more.
Lady Grasshopper didn't win.
So what's in a horse's name?
No more than 18 letters, counting spaces and punctuation. As many as a half dozen prospective names for a race horse can be submitted in a single mailing to the Jockey Club in Lexington, Ky. Think of the presentation of your horse's name as a brief bit during the family television hour, not Letterman or Leno, not even close. There will be no rough or nasty stuff in your horse's name, no cheap phonetic tricks to embarrass a track announcer, no adult video term. The most inexpensively bred horses seem to wind up with the craziest names. If you have a horse that doesn't figure to run much, you can at least leave them smiling.
The censors can't do a thing about an honest announcer calling a well-named horse that makes a good effort for the victory.
As the track announcer at Remington Park in Oklahoma City was fond of saying, when the race unfolded just so, "They won't catch Harass today."
There used to be a thoroughbred running around the middle of the country named Some Horse.
Imagine calling that one up toward the lead.
Anymore, it seems like all the best names have been taken. Among this year's group of Kentucky Derby contenders are: Circular Quay (quay is pronounced key and is something like a boat dock); Ravel (the French Composer who wrote Bolero, made famous by the oldie but still halfway decent Bo Derek in the motion picture "10;" Notional (fanciful); Birdbirdistheword (reminiscent of Surfin' Bird, a 60's song from The Trashmen); and Any Given Saturday.
Great sires are more simply named -- how creative can you get with Bold, Gallant, Native.
The females, the dams, are responsible for the best names. Dams and their offspring are listed in order: Cherry Orchard made Jam; Be Like Mom -- Oedipus; Sarcastic -- Vitriolic; Too Bald -- Capote; Relaxing -- Easy Goer; Klepto -- Criminal Type; The Scheme -- Conniver; Shenanigans -- Ruffian; Let's Dine -- Platter.
Some great names have no apparent parental link: Needles was sired by Ponder, the dam was Noodle Soup; Cigar came from Palace Music and Solar Slew; Secretariat from Bold Ruler and Something Royal.
Certain names are obvious: Alysheba (sired by Alydar and the dam Bel Sheba); Spectacular Bid was from Bold Bidder and Spectacular.
These couples made the following well-named offspring: Polyneasian and Geisha produced Native Dancer; Rosemont and Good Things made Bed 'o Roses.
Here's a sweet one: Irish River and North of Eden produced Paradise Creek.
Name another sport where a name can cost a fan some money.
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