5 Most Memorable Kentucky Derby Horse Names


The Kentucky Derby, often referred to as the “most exciting two minutes in sports,” is a prestigious horse race that has captivated audiences for over a century. With a rich history dating back to 1875, the Kentucky Derby has seen its fair share of remarkable moments, from record-breaking victories to unexpected upsets. However, one aspect of the race that never fails to capture attention is the unique and memorable names given to the competing horses. In this article, we will take a look at five of the most unforgettable Kentucky Derby horse names that have left a lasting impression on fans and spectators alike.

Sir Barton

One of the most iconic Kentucky Derby winners in history, Sir Barton made his mark on the racing world in 1919 by becoming the first horse to ever capture the Triple Crown. Trained by H. Guy Bedwell and ridden by jockey Johnny Loftus, Sir Barton’s name is said to have been inspired by his owner, J.K.L. Ross, who held the title of “Sir” in England. Sir Barton’s dominant performance in the Kentucky Derby set the stage for his subsequent victories in the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes, solidifying his place in horse racing history.


Widely regarded as one of the greatest racehorses of all time, Secretariat took the Kentucky Derby by storm in 1973 with a record-breaking performance that still stands today. Under the guidance of trainer Lucien Laurin and jockey Ron Turcotte, Secretariat captured the Triple Crown in spectacular fashion, winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in dominant fashion. The name “Secretariat” is said to have been chosen by owner Penny Chenery, who wanted a name that reflected the horse’s regal and mysterious presence on the track.

Funny Cide

In 2003, Funny Cide captured the hearts of racing fans everywhere with his charming personality and underdog story. Owned by a group of high school buddies known as Sackatoga Stable, Funny Cide defied the odds to win the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes, narrowly missing out on the Triple Crown with a third-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. The name “Funny Cide” is a play on words, combining the horse’s playful demeanor with a nod to his New York roots (a play on the state’s name “cide” in place of “sides”).

Mine That Bird

Arguably one of the biggest upsets in Kentucky Derby history, Mine That Bird shocked the racing world in 2009 with his improbable win at Churchill Downs. Trained by Chip Woolley and ridden by jockey Calvin Borel, Mine That Bird stormed from last place to first in a stunning display of speed and determination. The name “Mine That Bird” was chosen by owner Mark Allen as a tribute to his father, who worked in the mining industry in New Mexico. The name also reflects the horse’s relentless “digging” and perseverance on the track.

American Pharoah

In 2015, American Pharoah etched his name into the annals of horse racing history by becoming the first horse in 37 years to capture the elusive Triple Crown. Trained by Bob Baffert and piloted by jockey Victor Espinoza, American Pharoah’s electrifying victories in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes captivated audiences around the world. The name “American Pharoah” was chosen by owner Ahmed Zayat as a homage to the horse’s Egyptian lineage (note the unconventional spelling of “Pharoah”), as well as a symbol of his ambition to reign supreme in the world of horse racing.


The Kentucky Derby has been home to some of the most remarkable and memorable horse names in the history of the sport. From iconic champions like Sir Barton and Secretariat to beloved underdogs like Funny Cide and Mine That Bird, each name represents a unique story and legacy that has helped shape the rich tapestry of horse racing. Whether they evoke a sense of regal elegance, playful charm, or sheer determination, these names serve as a reminder of the enduring magic and excitement of the Kentucky Derby.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Q: How are Kentucky Derby horses named?
    A: Kentucky Derby horses are typically named by their owners, who have the creative freedom to choose a name that reflects the horse’s lineage, personality, or owner’s preferences. The name must be unique, not currently in use by another horse, and must adhere to the Jockey Club’s naming rules.

  2. Q: Can a Kentucky Derby horse’s name be changed?
    A: Once a horse’s name has been registered with the Jockey Club, it cannot be changed except under exceptional circumstances, such as an error in registration or special permission from the Jockey Club.

  3. Q: Do Kentucky Derby winners’ names have any significance?
    A: The names of Kentucky Derby winners can hold significance for their owners, trainers, and fans. Some names may be chosen to honor a person, place, or event, while others may reflect the horse’s qualities or achievements on the track.

  4. Q: Are there any naming restrictions for Kentucky Derby horses?
    A: The Jockey Club has specific rules and restrictions when it comes to naming racehorses, including limitations on length (up to 18 characters), inappropriate or offensive language, and the use of trademarked names.

  5. Q: How do owners come up with Kentucky Derby horse names?
    A: Owners often draw inspiration from a variety of sources when naming their Kentucky Derby horses, including family names, historical figures, favorite places, and unique word combinations. Some owners may also consult with professional namers or use online tools for brainstorming ideas.

  6. Q: What happens if a Kentucky Derby horse’s name is already taken?
    A: If a proposed name for a Kentucky Derby horse is already in use by another horse, it will not be accepted by the Jockey Club. In such cases, the owner must come up with an alternative name that meets the Jockey Club’s naming guidelines.

  7. Q: Are there any famous Kentucky Derby horses with humorous names?
    A: Yes, there have been several Kentucky Derby horses with amusing or clever names, such as “Hoof Hearted,” “Deweycheatumnhowe,” and “Horse Greeley.” These names often play on words or puns, adding a lighthearted touch to the world of horse racing.

  8. Q: Do Kentucky Derby horse names impact betting odds?
    A: Horse names typically do not have a direct impact on betting odds in the Kentucky Derby. Odds are calculated based on factors such as the horse’s past performances, jockey, trainer, and track conditions, rather than the name itself.

  9. Q: Has there ever been a Kentucky Derby horse with a controversial name?
    A: While most Kentucky Derby horse names are chosen with care and consideration, there have been instances of controversy surrounding certain names deemed offensive, inappropriate, or politically sensitive. In such cases, the Jockey Club may reject the name or request a change.

  10. Q: How do Kentucky Derby horse names contribute to the excitement of the race?
    A: Memorable and unique horse names add an element of intrigue, personality, and storytelling to the Kentucky Derby, capturing the imagination of fans and adding to the overall excitement and anticipation leading up to the race.

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