Name Protection

By Alastair Bull -- You may not realize it, but Citation is alive and in training. So, for that matter, is Allez France. We've also seen Habibti racing again, and doing very well.

None of these horses are clones. All are instead examples of one of world racing's great anomalies: the ability to re-use the names of champion racehorses.

The Citation named above is a 2-year-old filly by Groom Dancer who is currently in training in New Zealand. At present she has only run at a barrier trial--finishing an unremarkable third--but her name has been registered.

The latest Allez France is a 3-year-old filly trained in Australia. She has a fair way to go to match her illustrious French counterpart of the 1970s, a Timeform 136-rated mare who is regarded by some as the best of her sex to race in Europe since World War II. But she was regarded as good enough to contest group I races in her homeland this year, albeit unsuccessfully.

Neither Citation nor Allez France should have had their names re-used given they are both on the list of internationally protected names, which is put together by the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities. Neither New Zealand nor Australia were signatories to this list, preferring since the 1990s to assemble their own list of untouchables.

Citation is still on New Zealand's protected list, but somehow this slipped by the naming authorities. In Australia, it's believed Stud Book keeper John Digby put together his own selection of international feature races whose winners would have their names protected. Apparently the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, which Allez France won in 1974, isn't one of them.

English racing fans might wonder how an American filly got to be called Habibti last year as well. The English Habibti, foaled in 1980, was every bit as good as Allez France--rated 136 at three by Timeform, which called her "the best sprinter of her sex we have rated." Somehow, her name didn't make it onto the list of internationally protected names. At least the U.S. Habibti hasn't let the name down, becoming a dual grade I winner as a juvenile last season.

Just as interesting is the case of Willa On the Move. The filly who ran second in the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) this year shares her name with a mare bred by the same owner who won the grade I Ashland Stakes in the 1980s.

In the U.S. a name can be re-used after 10 years. In some other countries--such as New Zealand and Australia--the time lag is more like 15 years. But all have their lists of names with permanent protection, most of which follow the international list. The list of internationally protected names--which can be viewed at www.horseracingintfed. com--makes interesting reading.

Until 1995 the winners of 33 races from Britain, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, and the United States were protected. Since 1996, only nine grade/group I races guarantee protection for their winners: the Breeders' Cup Classic and Turf in the United States, the King George VI & Queen Elizabeth Diamond Stakes and Queen Elizabeth II Stakes in England, the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in France, the Gran Premio Carlos Pellegrini and Grande Premio Brazil in South America, the Melbourne Cup in Australia, and the Japan Cup.

However, countries with races in Part I of the International Cataloguing Standards book can propose three names per year of other horses whose form is sufficient to warrant protection. Protection is also available to stallions which have sired 15 or more group or grade I winners and mares that have produced at least two group/grade I winners and one other black-type winner.

The Citation and Allez France cases have raised barely a mention in Australia and New Zealand. But if we in this part of the world found a Phar Lap or a Sunline racing in the U.S., we would be fuming.

There are few more valuable things in Thoroughbred racing than its heritage, and that needs to be respected internationally. Perhaps a second tier of international names for which there is a longer time lag allowed for group and grade I winners not up to champion class would be one way to protect some of these--but the champions should be sacrosanct. It is up to the leaders of all racing authorities to ensure this list is kept up-to-date.

Alastair Bull is the racing editor of the Waikato Times and New Zealand correspondent for The Blood-Horse.