The 16 best Kentucky Derby horse names since 2000, ranked

Sporting News
  • The 16 best Kentucky Derby horse names since 2000, ranked

    So how do horses get their names, exactly? Often, it's a combination of their mother and father. Sometimes, it's picked by fans, like in the case of American Pharoah and his misspelled name. Some are just picked by the owners.

    It's most important to remember that not all horse names are created equal. Some are stupid. Others make no sense. And a select few are awesome. This is the latter.

    MORE: Biggest longshots to win Kentucky Derby | Every Derby winner

    We've picked the best Kentucky Derby names for each year since 2000, with some more difficult to pick than others. But remember — horses with the best names often don't come anywhere near the Run for the Roses.

    There are a handful of rules that must be followed when naming horses — it cannot contain characters or symbols, vulgar language, or any horse-related term. It must be fewer than 18 characters and cannot be named the same as any Hall of Fame horse or Grade 1 Stakes winner, among other things. Sometimes, a half-dozen names for the same horse can be rejected.


  • 1 2001: Dollar Bill

    This sounds more like one of those nicknames you give your created player in video games so the announcers have something to call you, but it's a good one nonetheless. He finished 15th and made no one any money.

    Also considered: Jamaican Rum, Invisible Ink


  • 2 2003: Ten Cents a Shine

    2003 was a tough year for great horse names in the Derby. But we'll give it to Ten Cents a Shine.

    Also considered: Empire Maker

    Not considered: Domestic Dispute. Not cool, man.

  • 3 2007: Any Given Saturday

    His owners really believed, but Any Given Saturday finished eighth. Not by inches, but several lengths.

    Also considered: Scat Daddy, Nobiz like Shobiz

  • 4 2015: Ocho Ocho Ocho

    One day, we'll just get a horse named "Thirty Four", but until then, this will work.

    Also considered: Bolo

  • 5 2011: Mucho Macho Man

    I like it. Maybe it's the alliteration.

    Also considered: Master of Hounds, Pants on Fire

  • 6 2002: War Emblem

    An all-around badass name, and a heck of a horse to boot. War Emblem won the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before faltering in the Belmont out of the gate, making a charge late and running out of gas.

    Also considered: Request For Parole

  • 7 2005: Buzzard's Bay

    Plus one for alliteration, but other than that, it wasn't a great year for Derby horse names. A literal buzzard's bay would be terrifying.

    Also considered: Giacomo

  • 8 2012: I'll Have Another

    The 2012 Kentucky Derby winner, I'll Have Another represents much of what's great about horse racing — indulgence of all kinds.

    Also considered: Union Rags

  • 9 2010: American Lion

    Imagine a lion running in the Kentucky Derby? We need that next year. I demand it.

    Also considered: Paddy O'Prado

  • 10 2013: Normandy Invasion

    Normandy Invasion storming down the stretch to win the Kentucky Derby would have been something. He finished fourth.

    Also considered: Lines of Battle

  • 11 2004: Song of the Sword

    The son of Unbridled's Song and Appealing Ms Sword finished 11th in the 2004 Kentucky Derby, but probably should have been a book title in the "Game of Thrones" series.

    Also considered: Imperialism, The Cliff's Edge

  • 12 2014: Danza

    He was named after Tony Danza. The easiest choice of the bunch.

    Also considered: California Chrome

  • 13 2006: Sinister Minister

    Rhymes? Big points. A paradox of a name? More points. Sinister Minister takes the 2006 Derby name title with ease, though he finished 16th in the race.

    Also considered: Lawyer Ron, Bluegrass Cat

  • 14 2009: West Side Bernie

    A horse named Bernie? Sign me up. Horses named after people are my favorite horses.

    Also considered: Mr. Hot Stuff, Regal Ransom, Atomic Rain

  • 15 2008: Big Truck

    I like horses named like people and other things that drive/race/run. Big Truck is my favorite of the lot, though some others didn't go down without a fight.

    Also considered: Cool Coal Man, Bob Black Jack

  • 16 2000: Fusaichi Pegasus

    This is a no-brainer, really. It's equal parts cool and intimidating.

    His name comes from the owner "Fusao," and the Japanese word for No. 1 or best, "ichi." In no coincidence, Fusaichi Pegasus won the 2000 Kentucky Derby.

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