Name Games: Origins of Derby Monikers

Name Games: Origins of Derby Monikers
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Visionaire is the first horse purchased by Vision Sales and the first horse campaigned under the Vision Racing colors.
In our quest to discover the origins of names belonging to Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) contenders, we discovered a diamond mine, picked up some basketball lingo, learned Indonesian, and found out "What brown can do for us" (to slightly modify a line from a popular television ad). Here are the stories behind the names of a few runners going into this year’s first Saturday in May.

Anak Nakal (Victory Gallop-Misk) is an Indonesian phrase meaning "mischievous child," owner Kassem Masri of Four Roses Thoroughbreds said. "He was a bad boy," Masri said. "But he's not anymore." 
Pyro (Pulpit-Wild Vision) was just a word that popped into Ron Winchell’s head one day, when the owner was naming a bunch of horses with racing manager David Fiske. The name doesn’t have anything to do with the colt’s sire or dam, but Fiske did report a hunch Winchell had at the time. He said, “Who wants to run against something named Pyro? That just sounds dangerous.”
Tale of Ekati (Tale of the Cat  -Silence Beauty) was named after the Ekati diamond mine discovered by owner Charles Fipke. The area around the mine in northern Canada was called “e'kati” by the Dogrib and Dene peoples of the Northwest Territories – translated, it means “fat lake” and refers to the white quartz rock which is found in abundance in the area. The white quartz veins that run through the rock are said to look like caribou fat, which is seen as a symbol of great value to the Aboriginal people.
Colonel John (Tiznow  -Sweet Damsel) is a racehorse and a real person – Lt. Colonel John Geiber, a resident of Dallas, Texas and a close personal friend of WinStar Farm co-owners Bill and Susan Casner. Geiber met the Casners through WinStar’s other co-owner, Kenny Troutt, for whom he has worked since 1996 as the head of security, travel and communications. Geiber’s background includes 28 years in both active and reserve duty for the United States Air Force and Army. His service included positions in the United States and Europe, training missions in Australia and South Korea, and seven months in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005.
Gayego (Gilded Time–Devils Lake) belongs to Cuban natives Carlos Juelle and Jose Prieto, who named their colt after a region in northern Spain.
Big Brown (Boundary-Mien) may be big and brown, but co-owner Paul Pompa Jr. didn’t name him for his physical characteristics. Pompa, the president of the Brooklyn-based Truck Rite Corporation, counts UPS Ground Freight among his most valued customers and named the colt after the company nickname – “Big Brown” after simultaneously purchasing the unnamed 2-year-old from Keeneland in April of 2007 and renewing a five-year contract with UPS. “Just think, of all the brown horses, nobody named a horse Big Brown,” he said.
Z Humor (Distorted Humor  -Offtheoldblock) and Z Fortune (Siphon-Fortunate Faith) are Zayat Stables runners whose titles are fairly obvious. “The funny thing is, only those two horses have just the Z in front of their names,” said racing manager Sobhy Sonbol. “Mr. Zayat came up with the idea of putting the Z in front, and then we played off the pedigrees, but it’s pretty interesting that they both ended up on the way to the Derby.”
Monba (Maria’s Mon-Hamba) is a combination of sire/dam names.
Court Vision (Gulch-Weekend Storm) reflects WinStar’s interest in other professional sports – basketball, in this case. Last year, the farm had Derby contender Any Given Sunday, whose name was a play on the title of the football movie Any Given Sunday. Said WinStar president and CEO Doug Cauthen, “The point guard on a basketball team has to have court vision, to be athletic and intelligent, which we think he is.” 
Adriano (A.P. Indy-Gold Canyon) is essentially named for his owner-breeder, Don Adams, whose middle name is Adrian.
“I was in Italy with one of my good friends and we walked into this office as we were buying granite and marble for a project,” Adam told the Derby notes team at Churchill Downs. “On the name plate on the person’s desk was ‘Adriano,’ and he elbowed me and said, ‘That’s you.’ So ever since then, he’s referred to me as Adriano.”
Recapturetheglory (Cherokee Run-Cold Awakening) is what co-owner/trainer Louie Roussel III is hoping to do with his first Derby contender since 1998. Then, exactly 20 years ago, Risen Star was sent off as the fourth choice by bettors, ran third in the Derby, and went on to win the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) en route to a 15-length score in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Roussel named the colt in Risen Star’s memory, hoping to recapture his glory of 20 years ago.
Smooth Air (Smooth Jazz-Air France) is a combination of sire/dam names
Cool Coal Man (Mineshaft  –Coral Sea) is named in honor of his sire. Trainer Nick Zito came up with the title for owner Robert LaPenta.
Eight Belles (Unbridled's Song–Away) is named after “Eight Bells,” the Maine home that belongs to the family of American contemporary realist painters Andrew Wyeth and N.C. Wyeth. According to owner Rick Porter, “We’ve been friends with the Wyeths for years, and I’ve named horses after their paintings because it’s just something I do. I was going to name a colt ‘Eight Bells,’ but I’d been holding onto the name and then I fell in love with this filly as a yearling and decided to use the name ‘Eight Belles’ for her. It turned out well, and that’s the history so far.”
Cowboy Cal (Giant's Causeway  –Texas Tammy) was named after a nickname given to the son of owners Janice and Robert McNair of Stonerside Stable. Many years ago, when Cal was three or four years old, the young son of some close family friends was stricken with liver cancer. Coming to Houston for treatments, he stayed with the McNairs. Cal had a cowboy outfit that he loved to wear all the time, so the little boy started calling him “Cowboy Cal.” The McNairs thought it would be a good name for a special horse, and fortunately he’s turned out to be one of their better ones. Cal is now 47, and according to reports from Stonerside, will not be wearing a cowboy outfit to the Derby.

Visionaire (Grand Slam–Scarlet Tango) is the first horse purchased by Vision Sales and the first horse campaigned under the Vision Racing colors. Both syndicates are managed by partners Brandon and Diannah Perry and John and Jill Stephens.

Most Popular Stories