Searching for the big-race winner: Just pick a name that will look right on the roll of honour

It is frequently stated that a good horse never has a bad name, particularly a Derby winner. A glance down the Blue Riband roll of honour shows this to be not entirely true - among 18th and 19th century heroes Waxy, Lapdog, Spaniel, Macaroni and Common are just a few who lack something in nobility and Noble, Eager, Champion, Pope and Sam in originality - but it seems that even so, once a horse earns immortality at Epsom, his name acquires a certain ring.

Except for the winner in 1797, of course. He made his debut in the Derby, raced only once afterwards, and was known merely as the Fidget colt.

Compulsory naming is a relatively recent phenomenon; horses older than two could run un-named until 1913 and anonymous two-year-olds until 1946.

Of course, the naming of a racehorse is entirely subjective and it is an owner's prerogative to call the beast whatever he or she likes, within the bounds of decency and the modern limit of 18 letters and spaces. Which means that the 1849 winner would be called Theflyingdutchman if he was around today.

The art of nomenclature has provided some neat examples through the Classic centuries; in the Derby, for instance, Call Boy (by Hurry On out of Comedienne); in the Oaks, Quashed (Obliterate-Verdict), in the St Leger, Royal Lancer (Spearmint-Royal Favour).

Of the colts running today, some thought has gone into Sir Percy, who is by Mark Of Esteem out of Percy's Lass. There is not only a link though his dam, by Blakeney, but also through his sire, for Sir Percival was honoured as the purest of the Round Table knights. Other of his ilk to have won Derbys have been Sir Peter Teazle (1787), Sir Thomas (1788), Sir Harry (1798), Sir Bevys (1879), Sir Hugo (1892), Sir Visto (1895) and Sir Ivor (1968).

Many of the Aga Khan's horses are called for towns or states in Muslim countries and today's favourite, Visindar, sounds like another. But in fact the colt, by Sinndar out of Visor, was bought already-named in the fusion style typical of his breeder, the late Jean-Luc Lagardère. Other composite Derby winners have been Persimmon (St Simon-Perdita), Orby (Orme-Rhoda B), Crepello (Donatello-Crepuscule), Relko (Tankerko-Relance) and Grundy (Great Nephew-Word From Lundy).

There is generally a theme each year at Ballydoyle; this season's three-year-olds are mostly famous figures. An American president, George Washington, has already won the Guineas; this afternoon it may be the turn of an English admiral, a Welsh poet or a Roman general to strike. Septimus's bay coat is dark in hue; his namesake was the first black emperor of Rome, who died in AD211 in York, so perhaps the colt's Dante Stakes victory there was not inappropriate.

Linda's Lad is more prosaic, a tribute to his owner's daughter's boyfriend. The only young man successful in a Derby to date has been Windsor Lad in 1934. Championship Point is so called because he is owned by a tennis fanatic. Snoqualmie Boy, by Montjeu out of Seattle Ribbon, takes his name from the eponymous mountain resort town near Seattle, in Washington state.

The only initial letters absent from the list of Derby winners are U, X and Z. V is rare enough - there have been only Voltigeur and Volodyovski - and there have been only one each of I (Iroquois), Q (Quest For Fame) and Y (Young Eclipse). S is easily the most popular, with 41 representatives.

With England playing today, it might be interesting to note that two of today's Derby field - Dylan Thomas and Snoqualmie Boy - were born on 23 April, St George's Day. The oldest runner is Before You Go (born on 12 January) and the youngest Atlantic Waves (2 May).

Lady Beaverbrook was in the habit of giving her horses one-word, seven-letter names because that was the composition of most Derby winners. But since her day eight letters has become the mode, 45 of them. So, a dignified, eight-letter name beginning with S? It looks like Septimus.

Voices
voices
News
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
News
science
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before