How the 2018 Derby Horses Got Their Names

By Ashlee Peck Premium
2018 derby horses names
LOUISVILLE, KY – MAY 03: Audible trains on the track during morning workouts in preparation for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3, 2018 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

For the first two years of their life, thoroughbred horses are generally referred to by a nickname, or by their mother’s name along with the year they were born. Once the horse is two, it’s time to select it’s official name.

Selecting the name of a thoroughbred race horse is not an easy task. There are a lot of rules:

  • Name a horse using initials or numbers
  • The name can’t be more than 18 characters long, including punctuation
  • End a name with “filly,” “colt,” “stud,” “mare,” “stallion,” or any other horse-related term
  • Name a horse after a living person without written permission
  • Use the name of a deceased person, unless approved by the Jockey Club, one of American horse racing’s governing bodies
  • Use the name of a track or stakes race
  • Use names with clear commercial or artistic value
  • Use names that are “obscene,” “vulgar” or “in poor taste.”
  • Use names identical or nearly identical to horses within certain time frames, depending upon what the original horse accomplished

Many owners name their horses after their sires or dams. Others chose names that celebrate a famous person or place, or that honor a family member. It’s important to pick a name that people will like and remember. It’s a very big job.

So how did the 2018 Derby horses get their names? We’ve got the scoop on all twenty of them.


A co-owner of WinStar Farms Elliot Walden often likes to use football terms when naming his horses. In the sport, an audible is a term for a quarterback changing a play call at the line of scrimmage. As the race horse grew in popularity, audio book company Audible got wind of if, and ended up becoming a sponsor.

Bolt d’Oro

“Bolt” was chosen as a tribute to olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt, for his ability to look like he was effortlessly floating past other horses with ease when he galloped. The “D’Oro” is a nod to the sire, Medaglia d’Oro.


Famed Calumet Farm often choses one-word names for their horses, and Bravazo is no exception. Loosely translating to “awesome” in Spanish, the name is a perfect fit, as Bravazo’s sire is Awesome Again.
It’s a loose translation of the word “awesome” in Spanish. Bravazo’s sire is Awesome Again.


Coming from Winchell Thoroughbreds, Combatant joins several other colts with strong sounding names,  in case they ever have to retire to stud. Aside from this, there was no particular significance in the selecting of this name.
“It doesn’t have any particular significance,” Fiske said. “We go through a ton of names every year and kick them back and forth.”


The owners of Enticed chose her name in honor of her dam, It’s Tricky. Known for her hard-headed personality, It’s Tricky often had to be “enticed” to do what she was supposed to.

Firenze Fire

Ron Lombardi, owner of Firenze Fire, travels to Florence (Firenze in Italian) with his daughter several times a year. During the time that they were naming the horse, Tom Hanks happened to also be in Florence filming Inferno. He states that “Firenze Fire just clicked.”


Flameaway was named partially for his beautiful chestnut color that leads him to look as if he has a flaming coat. His third dam was Flame of Tara, a filly who won races. The name also ties in one of Oxley’s favorite childhood horses, Whirlaway, the 1941 Triple Crown winner.

Free Drop Billy

Owner Dennis Albaugh once teased his golfing buddy Bill Collins that if he hit one more ball into the lake without taking penalty that he’d name a horse after him. Bill continued taking “free drops”, and thus the name was born.

Good Magic

Good Magic’s dam is Glinda the Good, and Glinda the Good’s dam was Magical Flash.


In celebration of his class and beauty, Hofburg was named for the former imperial palace in Vienna, Austria.

Instilled Regard

Owner Larry Best chose this name to represent the attitude towards life that he’d like to instill in his daughter. An attitude of respect, of giving your all, and of admiring your competitors.


A name that had been saved for just the right horse, Justify was reserved by WinStar in a database and held onto. They knew they had found just the horse upon purchasing him as a yearling.

Lone Sailor

As with most of their horses, GMB Racing named Lone Sailor after Tom Benson, the the former owner of the New Orleans Saints who died in March. As Benson has served in the Navy, they chose the name of an award given to former officers who contribute to their community.

Magnum Moon

“Moon” was chosen as a tribute to the sire, Malibu Moon. The “Magnum” was an easy choice for owners Lawana and Robert Low, who are wine collectors.


The owners of Mendelssohn often name their horses after famous people, such as Galileo, Dylan Thomas and George Washington. This time, they chose to honor 9th Century composer Felix Mendelssohn, best-known work includes music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

My Boy Jack

My Boy Jack is named for co-owner Sol Kumin’s  friend’s son, an eighth grader in New York who is a big-time horse lover.

Noble Indy

This names pays tribute to the sire, Take Charge Indy, and the dam, Noble Maz.

Promises Fulfilled

A celebration of family accomplishments, owner Robert Baron chose this name in celebration of he and his wife fulfilling promises to their children, such as raising them well and sending them to college.


The Zayat family (of Zayat Stables) kept it in the family when naming Solomini, who is named after the grandsom of Ahmed Zayat, Solomon.

Vino Rosso

Owned by two people with Italian heritage,  Vino Rosso is Italian for “red wine.”

The editors here at Family Tree Magazine haven’t picked a favorite contender for the race, but we are all a little more excited now that we know the stories behind these thoroughbreds’ names. Will you be watching the race?

Your Turn: How Was Your Name Chosen?