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With the arrival of the new year comes the knowledge that it’s never too early to start thinking about the Derby trail (although the last time I backed a horse in January – a certain Smarty Jones – indeed, the victory did come to pass). I can’t say I’m bowled over by anyone yet, but a large part of my lack of enthusiasm (so far) for this crop is that many of them have been saddled with terrible, terrible names.

Spectacular Bid winner Notonthesamepage is aiming for the Fountain of Youth, Majormotionpicture is likely to return in the San Rafael, and poor Pioneerof the Nile is getting some buzz, but is stuck with that awful moniker. I’d like to see the Jockey Club ban run-on names before worrying about possible naughtiness – especially since they rarely seem capable of noting such things anyway.

One horse I do like is The Pamplemousse (Mary Forney has a nice photo of him on her site today) – even though I am not a fan of grapefruit in general, I do very much approve of this name, which I can only assume is a tip of the hat to the fine Divine Comedy b-side. (That’s certainly the only explanation that makes sense in my brain).

On the whole, however, many of the new 3-year-olds look awfully sprinty to me; former claimer Loch Dubh also fits that profile, although again, he’s got a name I actually like – no doubt because I watched far too much Hamish Macbeth in the 1990s. (For the uninitiated, the show starred Robert Carlyle as a pot-friendly policeman in a remote Scottish village called Lochdubh).

One wonders if Midshipman and Vineyard Haven heading to Dubai to train will be something of a useful distraction for Team Godolphin – it seems that construction on the new Meydan racecourse will be slowed, as both firms contracted to work on it have been canned. We’ll see how that goes.

I’m rather doubtful we’ve seen the best of this crop yet (unless we include Stardom Bound – I’m not holding her newish dubious owners against her, and I’m looking forward to her likely start in the Las Virgenes); if recent patterns hold, this year’s Derby winner has yet to break his (or her) maiden.

In the meantime, while these youngsters are figuring out where they belong, we’ve got the return of Brass Hat to look forward to. Here’s hoping he’s still got it.

8 comments to Nomenclature

  • Jessica

    I’m high on a horse early this year, which hasn’t happened since Afleet Alex (who I just know won the Derby in an alternate universe as he should have in this one in 2005). Old Fashioned is my Derby horse — I like the connections, the 2-year-old campaign, how he reminds me of Rockport Harbor.

  • Eddie D.

    Derby winners since 1998 who have raced in January of their three-year-old season: Real Quiet, Charismatic, Fusaichi Pegasus, Monarchos, War Emblem, Funny Cide, Smarty Jones, and Barbaro. That’s eight out of 11. Of course, three of the last four (Giacomo, Street Sense, and Big Brown [who didn’t even work until February]) didn’t.

    Old Fashioned looks legit. I can’t imagine distance or connections would being a problem, but soundness could be an issue.

    My pick right now is Giant Oak.

  • Anonymous

    >>With the arrival of the new year comes the knowledge that it's never too early to start thinking about the Derby trail

    It's too early to start thinking about the Derby trail.

  • Anonymous

    I like Old Fashioned, Point Encounter, Uno Mas and I Want Revenge. You don’t hold new owners against Stardom Bound? Why even mention it then?

  • Superfecta

    Ah, my anonymous friends – you missed the snark! Better luck next time.

    Back in the real world, I do like Old Fashioned a bit, but I’m very much in wait-and-see mode. Afleet Alex won the Derby in my alternate universe as well, of course.

  • Chalk Eating Weasel

    I can’t even pick the winner of the next race at Gulfstream, much less the Ky Derby at this point.

  • Teresa

    Afleet Alex DID win the Derby. And the Triple Crown. At least where I live.

    Am I a bad race fan because I don’t really care about the Derby at all?

  • dana

    Does anyone else think it’s funny that Frankel is being mentioned as Stardom Bound’s trainer in the recent press about her potential Las Virgenes start? When IEAH decided to keep her on the west coast, it was sort of positioned as Frankel was just keeping an eye on her for Babe, not that he was the official trainer.

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