Everyone knows the "best" name is as subjective as the "best" food. With that said, these well-known horses came out winners either in racing, breeding, or even fiction, and now they are living their best horse lives possible -- which makes their names (subjectively) the best. Perhaps some of their luck and charm will rub off on your equine friend.
Naming your horse with prospects of bidding -- meaning they make a "bid" to take the lead during a horse race -- seems to work out well for at least a couple of top racehorses. Take some variation of one of these bid-worthy names.
- Spectacular Bid - For example, Spectacular Bid was a racehorse in the late 1970s. He lived up to his name and then some by earning 30 first place finishes between 1978 and 1980. He was the first horse to be named a champion at 2, 3, and 4. His pedigree includes a stud named Bold Bidder and a mare who went by Spectacular, which is how this winning horse got his name.
- Time to Bid - Was the top winning thoroughbred for the North American cup, winning a total of 50 times in his career. Perhaps his moniker was a play on words by the owner to get more people to take a chance on his horse.
- Bold Bidder - What Bold Bidder is known for isn't necessarily his racing -- out of 13 starts he had 13 firsts, 2 seconds, and 5 thirds. However, he turned out to be an excellent sire and sired 286 winners and 53 stakes winners, including Spectacular Bid.
- Top Bid - Top Bid is the half brother of Bold Bidder, though he only had a short career as a racehorse. However, he went on to succeed in steeplechasing, a type of racing event that involves hurdles.
Names That Start With "A"
It's admittedly a stretch to say that naming your horse with a name that starts with "A" will up their chances of winning the Triple Crown. On the other hand, who knows? Names starting with other letters aren't consistent in the Triple Crown list, so perhaps "A" names are extra lucky? Now that it's been pointed out, it's hard not to notice the coincidence; no other beginning letter is as popular.
- American Pharoah (2015) - American Pharoah was the first winner of the Triple Crown in 37 years. That speaks for itself.
- Affirmed (1978) - It doesn't get more exciting than when Affirmed beat Alydar in the 1978 Kentucky Derby.
- Assault (1946) - Assault's comeback story is one for the books. Left injured when he accidentally stepped on a surveyor's stake, he overcame obstacles to win his Triple Crown.
("S" names don't count because when Sir Barton won in 1919, the Triple Crown wasn't yet a thing, and he was notoriously slow. Definitely, stick with names that start with "A.")
Sure, being a wealthy horse doesn't necessarily mean you are a winning horse. However, if money is luck, an offshoot of one of these names might just be your luckiest bet yet.
- Arrogate - With earnings of $17,422,600, Arrogate is the current leading highest earning race horse in history.
- TM Opera O - Granted, the name doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but the Japanese TM Opera O is one of the highest earning racehorses at $16.2 million in career winnings, a record he set in 2001.
- Makybe Diva - Makybe Diva earned a $14 million over the course of her career in Australian racing. That's not to say that you would too if your horse had a similar name -- but hey, you never know.
- California Chrome - California Chrome is the richest Kentucky Derby horse in history, with a record $14,752,650 in winnings.
- Classique Legend - This steed won The Everest in 2020, among several other high paying races. Classique Legend's earnings sit just over $9 million.
Some horse racing enthusiasts bet on horses simply because of their quirky names. If the name is good, then the horse has to be great, right? To that end, pick something really goofy, if for no other reason than to hear people try to pronounce it.
- Whatamichoppedliver - The name made ABC's list of the oddest monikers for the Kentucky Derby and really, it's easy to see why. Once you figure out how to pronounce this, the phrase is hard to say in any other way but a kind of whine at having been overlooked.
- Nosupeforyou - This isn't the luckiest name in the world. Nosupeforyou didn't win a single race, ever. However, it's hard not to love a good Seinfeld reference, and apparently, Bleacher Report agrees, giving this name a spot on its most hilarious names in the Kentucky Derby.
- Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr - If this horse hadn't won a race ever, his name would be unremarkable and odd. However, when he won a race in Saratoga with announcer Tom Durkin unhesitatingly pronouncing the name, complete with pirate accent, it made the moniker go down in history as one of the funniest horse names of all time.
- Tiz the Law - Champion of the 2020 Belmont Stakes, Tiz the Law's unique moniker was inspired by his parent's names. His pedigree is a mare named Tizfiz, and he was sired by a stud named Constitution (where the "law" comes from).
Grammatically Incorrect and Misspelled Names
Spelling is tough -- both for school children and horse owners. However, misspelled names make grammar nerds go crazy. So, if you want to drive someone up a wall with a misplaced homophone or missing letter, something like these appellations might fit the bill. On the bright side, it's unlikely your horse's name would ever be forgotten. In fact, Horse and Hound found this so amusing, they actually came up with a list to highlight these names.
- Sea The Stars - Don't let the use of the word "sea" in lieu of "see" make you cringe. Sea the Stars was a champion race horse and has already sired several other champion winners.
- Definitly Red - The word "definitely" is certainly tough to spell. Not sure what the breeders were thinking, but don't shun this misspelled moniker. Another winner, this racehorse won more often than not. Maybe misspelling a word in your horse's name is lucky and you should try it too!
- The Last Samuri - One has to assume the owner wasn't quite sure how to spell "samurai." Regardless, The Last Samuri is memorable both because it emotes the idea of going to battle, and you're unlikely to forget it if you know how to spell "samurai."
- Potoooooooo - As the story goes, this racehorse earned its name when a stable worker misspelled the name "Potatoes" on the horse's stall. The owner was tickled and kept the incorrect spelling.
Slightly Off Color Names
Do you think it'd be funny to name your horse "Buck Naked" so you can say you're riding "Buck Naked" all the time? If that's you, then these off-color names might be the best names ever.
- Onoitsmymothernlaw - It is hard not to appreciate the name, "Onoitsmymotherinlaw." It made Bleacher's Reports list of Best/Funniest/Strangest/Most Insulting Names in horse racing ... and it's certainly memorable. (Not convinced? Just listen to Tom Durkin announcing a race with Onoitsmymotherinlaw.) Hopefully, the mother-in-law had a really good sense of humor.
- That's What She Said - If you are a fan of The Office, it might be a given that one of the best horse names ever is a play on Michael Scott's off-color humor. While it can't be said this name made any great lists, can you imagine the announcer saying, "It's Onoitsmymotherinlaw and That's What She Said neck and neck"? The Office fan blog, Office Tally, agrees that this might possibly be the best horse name ever.
- Badly - While Badly isn't as cheeky as some other options, it is still amusing to hear the announcer say, "And here comes Bob Little riding Badly." Horse and Hound agrees, as they put this on their list of best (or weirdest) names ever.
- Judge Smells - Even if this stud's scent isn't offensive, some might find his name offputting. In keeping with the tradition of following a name theme with pedigree, Judge Smells sired a steed with an equally absurd name: Odor in the Court.
From the Movies
There's precious little else that will immortalize your name forever than putting it in a movie. These real-life horses all had movies made about their spectacular lives. Tissues are a must if you sit down to watch.
- Secretariat - What does Secretariat have in common with the likes of Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, and Mohammed Ali? He was also named one of ESPN's top North American athletes of all time. He only raced two years, but in that time, he made quite an impact. The movie, also titled Secretariat, tells his unlikely story.
- Seabiscuit - Seabiscuit was more than just a champion racehorse. His story symbolized a new hope in the era of the Great Depression. The most recent movie about him was made in 2003. However, his story has been featured in several movies, making him a household name.
- Ruffian - Some say that Ruffian was the greatest racehorse of all time. While that might be debatable, the fact that Ruffian's story is movie-worthy isn't. This horse inspired a movie and a documentary.
- Prince of Penzance - The 2019 film, Ride Like a Girl, recounts the true story of Michelle Payne, the first female jockey winner of the Melbourne Cup. Her winning steed's name was Prince of Penzance, also known as POP.
If you're a reader, it's possible the best horse name for you is inspired by your favorite book.
- Shadowfax - Lord of the Ring lovers would be hard pressed to forget the "Lord of Horses." Notable not only for his coat (which is silvery gray by day and hardly to be seen at night) but also his mythological qualities, he is, after all, a fictional horse. However, understanding human speech and running faster than the wind definitely make this fictional beast stand out from the crowd.
- Blackjack - Blackjack is Percy Jackson's very own flying horse from Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. Not only does the horse help Percy get around, but he also goes to Percy with his problems (as do the other beasts.) That special bond makes Blackjack a pretty great horse from literature.
- Flicka - Flicka, from My Friend Flicka, is a fictional horse with a serious attitude. However, it's not the horse herself that puts the name on this list, but rather the heartwarming story of the bond that develops between the horse and the lead character. As is the case with any good horse story, bring tissues with you when you read.
- Artax - The beloved companion horse in the book The Neverending Story (and the movie of the same name) shattered reader's hearts with an untimely death. Although the protagonist of the story within the story, Atreyu, makes it through the Swamp of Sadness, Artax does not. Artax is a talking horse in the novel.
Other Famous Horses
Not all horses are famous for racing, books, or movies. Consider naming your horse after one of these great horses who were famous for other things.
- Blaze - Blaze is a real-life horse that Blaze Magazine is named after. Having a horse with a famous name sounds like a great idea!
- Mr. Ed - If you grew up in the 1960s, chances are you remember Mr. Ed, the loveable talking horse of the similarly titled show. If your horse has a humorous personality, there isn't a better name out there. He even comes with his own catchy theme song!
- Brown Beauty - The name might sound plain, but this horse was instrumental in starting the Revolutionary War. Brown Beauty is in the history books as Paul Revere's mare, and thus rightly deserves a place in every horse lover's history annals.
- Lady Wonder - Lady Wonder was famous for her psychic abilities. This horse learned to move lettered blocks and bring up numbered cards to answer people's inquiries. Her most notable prediction was the winner of the 1927 world heavyweight championship. Giving your horse this namesake might inspire the same abilities.
Famous People's Horses
If the name is good enough for someone famous, it's good enough for anyone. These great names belong to some of the world's most notable or famous people.
- Burmese - Burmese was given to Queen Elizabeth II and was purportedly her favorite horse. In fact, she was so fond of the horse that when Burmese retired, the Queen stopped riding horses in pageantry ceremonies and started using horse-drawn carriages.
- Red Fox - Perhaps it's more accurate to describe Red Fox as the horse of someone infamous rather than famous; his owner was Jesse James, the outlaw. It's hard to tell what is truth and legend when it comes to Jesse James and his trusty steed, but the legends live on, which makes this horse moniker tops.
- Eurayus - The name rolls off the tongue in a rather noble way. It's no wonder then that Eurayus is the real-life horse that Aragorn rode in Lord of the Rings. Viggo Mortensen, the actor who plays Aragorn, bought him after the shoot because they had developed such a close bond.
- Bionetty - Kaley Cuoco is an avid rider in addition to being an actor. She even met her now ex-partner, professional equestrian Karl Cook, at a competition. One of her many personal horses is Bionetty, nicknamed Netty, who competed in horse shows for many years until her retirement in early 2021.
Naming Your Horse Like a Pro
Obviously, the best name for your horse is the one you love the most. However, there does seem to be both an art and a science to naming your horse.
- Many horses are named according to their pedigree. For example, Spectacular Bid's sire was Bold Bidder and his dam was Spectacular. Thus, a star's name is born. In an interview with National Public Radio, Jockey Club registrar Rick Bailey notes that this is the most common approach.
- Don't choose something that's difficult to pronounce if your horse is going to be a show or event horse. You'll forever be correcting, explaining, or cringing as the announcer mispronounces your horse's name wrong every time.
- Saddle and Bridle magazine points out it's important to make sure the name isn't already taken.