What's in a name?

I kind of liked a horse the other day at Finger Lakes. She was coming off a decent third, was a square price at 13-1, most everyone in the field had miserable form and there was a ton of speed in the race to set up her late kick. One problem: her name was Waste of Money.

Were they trying to tell me something?

Waste of Money never ran a step and I had wasted my money. She was last through much of the race and then plodded past two other dismal horses in the stretch to finish sixth. According to the chart caller, she "showed little," which pretty much sums up her entire 51-race career. Waste of Money has won just twice in her life and is riding a 43-race losing streak.

"I was at a sale with an owner and I got up to got to the bathroom," remembers trainer Gary Contessa. "I came back and the guy said, 'I just bought a horse.' He had paid $2,500. I started yelling at him, 'What is wrong with you? Whether you pay $2,500 for a piece of junk or $25,000 for a horse who might be able to run, the day rate is the same. I kept saying, 'What a waste of money, why waste your money on a piece of junk just because you think it's a bargain.'"

And so she was named.

The moral of the story is that when it comes to disparaging horse names, the name usually fits. Never bet on a horse named Bum or Dog or Slow. They were given those names for a reason.

A horse named Bum ran three times in the late eighties at Laurel. He never so much as beat a horse. After losing his three starts by a combined 105 lengths, they gave up on this bum.

"Since I have to write horses' names down so much, whether it's on training schedules, bills, registrations, I like to confine their names to three letters," said his owner and breeder King Leatherbury. "There are only so many names you can get out of three letters. This horse wasn't bred very well, so I used the name 'Bum.' I wouldn't have done that to a horse I thought more of. A lot of people criticized me and asked me how I could do that. They said it was a terrible name."

At least that Bum got to the races. A horse born in 2002 was also named Bum. He worked four times at Turf Paradise, never once cracking :39 seconds in his three-furlong workouts. Since this Bum has never started, I can only guess that the trainer realized it was futile to even race him.

Dog actually won a race. The bettors weren't exactly fooled when Dog first showed up at the races. He was sent off at 29-1 in his debut, a 2002 maiden special weight race at Keeneland and was beaten so badly that his jockey eased him before the wire. But every dog has its day. Dog won an $8,000 maiden claimer at Timonium in the penultimate start of his five-race career.

Would you really want to bet on a horse named Slow? Not this Slow, at least. He made 10 futile starts in the late eighties before he was distanced in a $6,250 claimer at Billings in Montana.

Sometimes, they practically beg you not to bet on them. That was the case in 1987 when a daughter of Gran Zar made her debut at Philadelphia Park and was sent off at 14-1. When she bolted and failed to make the course, nobody should have been too surprised. Her name was "Don't Bet on Me." Remarkably, she won three races later, just one of two wins she recorded in 23 lifetime starts.

Was Lazy lazy? He never hit the board in six career starts. Nobody was never a somebody. His career amounted to four races, all of them decisive defeats in cheap maiden claimers. Since he was born in 1925, I don't know much about Sucky, except that I bet that was a pretty apt description of his abilities. Junk must have been. She never got to the races.

Don't ever let it be said that they got the name wrong when it came to I'm Bad. He might have won a $12,500 maiden claimer at Fresno, but that didn't exactly make him I'm Good. He lost his debut by 20 lengths and called it a career after losing a $5,000 claimer by 16 lengths. Actually I'm Bad may not have been as bad as Very Bad. The Irish-bred was 2-for-41 in his career.

Eleven years ago at Oaklawn Park a first-time starter showed up in a maiden special weight race and got trounced by 20 3/4 lengths. To those who believe in the veracity of names, the performance came as no surprise. The horse's name was Tihsis. Think about it.