Today the 1st of November is the anniversary of the 1938 Horse Race in America dubbed the ‘Match of the Century’ between ‘Seabiscuit’ and the then favourite ‘War Admiral’ at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland. The race was held over a track just under a mile and a quarter long, and ‘War Admiral’ started out as favourite with odds of 4-1 on, with an estimated 40,000 people trackside, and a further 40 million listening in on the radio. Legendary trainer Tom Smith with his unorthodox methods had devised tactics for the race which ultimately paid off, and after a memorable head to head race ‘Seabiscuit’ won by four clear lengths. ‘Seabiscuit’ was subsequently named “Horse of the Year” for 1938.
‘Seabiscuit’ was an odd name, but the rules governing the naming of horses are strict, for example, horses names cannot be longer than 18 characters and spaces, and names currently on the Register of Horse Names or names of horses who have won a major flat or jump race cannot be used (so there can only be one ‘Best Mate’ or ‘Shergar’). And most famously, names whose meaning, pronunciation or spelling is obscene or insulting are prohibited. Over the years some have slipped through the net with ‘WearTheFoxHat’ and ‘Noble Locks’ being the most notable.
Silly names are often quoted in the racing press and on television as folk have struggled to find an exclusive name. ‘No D Feet’, ‘No Da Deh’, ‘Sexliesandalibis’, ‘Snoozin Susan’, and ‘Wontonsoupforyou’ are just a fraction of the thousands of ‘unique’ names already listed. Bert Thomas (1883-1966) cartoon below highlights the problems involved in naming a horse.
OWNER: "You let the whole bloomin' field walk over you."
JOCKEY: "Well, whatcher expec' with a horse called 'Turkey Carpet' ?"