There are few things more powerful than a name.
Your own was likely the product of a thought-out, meaningful process. Yet getting called one growing up can stick with you. You earn nicknames, name your price, make a name for yourself. Heck, win in Oscar, if you’re the film Call Me By Your Name.
In horse racing, a name can intimidate: War Admiral, Assault, Exterminator. It can be colorful: Old Rosebud, Big Brown, Black Gold. It can be an homage. To athletes, for example.
Take Nyquist, for example, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2016, named after NHLer Gustav Nyquist. Or Trojan Nation, who placed 16th in the same race and was owned by a die-hard USC fan. Or Messier, named after the former New York Ranger Mark Messier, who placed 15th in 2022 despite owning the third-best morning line odds.
There have been a long list of horses named for athletes, coaches and teams. Including New York figures. Three Technique (Bill Parcells), Sean Avery (former Ranger Sean Avery) and Syndergaard (former New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard) are just a few.
But this list needs more names. It needs more horses further idolizing New York greats.
Coming down the stretch: All Rise
First, let’s get one gimme out of the way, courtesy of Lou Gehrig: Iron Horse. We don’t need to get into detail about this. It’s as straightforward as it gets.
Sticking with the New York Yankees, however, we’ll turn to MVP Aaron Judge.
Imagine a thoroughbred making the final turn to head down the homestretch. He kicks into gear and pulls away from the crowd. And as he nears the finish line for victory, Larry Collmus blares out two words reminiscent of a Judge home run call: All Rise.
Making a pass on the left: Wide Right
A double-edged sword comes up second here, a tribute to Super Bowl XXV, which featured two teams from the same “state”: a showdown between the New York Giants and Buffalo Bills. (“State” in quotes, considering the Giants played home games in New Jersey.)
Jeff Hostetler, stepping in for the injured Phil Simms, played admirably, finishing with 222 yards and a TD. Ottis Anderson, meanwhile, took home MVP honors with 102 yards rushing and a score.
The game, though, will forever be remembered for the final play, kicker Scott Norwood, booting a potential game-winning field goal that ultimately went … Wide Right.
Admittedly, this cocktail contains equal parts bitters and sweet for New York fans.
Speaking of cocktails.
The largest underdog to win: Miracle Neat
Who could forget the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid? Al Michaels’ iconic call as Team USA, after scoring twice in the third period, iced the game away to defeat heavyweight Soviet Union:
“Five seconds left in the game. Do you believe in miracles? YES!”
It was the Miracle on Ice, as the underdog Americans upset the four-time defending gold medalist Soviet Union. (Team USA went on to win gold with a victory over Finland.)
But we can’t just name the horse the actual name of the historic event. After all, the Kentucky Derby represents the dawn of spring. Warmer weather, less ice.
So what’s the mixology opposite of on the rocks? Miracle Neat.
You always have to keep an eye on Filly the Kidd
Arguably no Old West outlaws carries as much notoriety as Billy the Kid. While not the greatest of role models, his name is synonymous with the Wild West.
Similarly, when thinking of the Brooklyn Nets franchise, few names come before Jason Kidd.
Team record holder in various categories, including assists and steals, Kidd guided the Nets to their lone NBA Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. (He also gained infamy as the Nets coach, stealing a free timeout after telling Tyshawn Taylor to run into him while he held a beverage.)
Perhaps Filly the Kidd could become the fourth filly to win the Kentucky Derby.
A favorite from the start and a win for No Lett Down
Apologies for brining up the Bills’ Super Bowl downfalls yet again. But at least this one makes for not only a great highlight of never-say-die attitude but also one of the greatest bloopers in NFL history.
It was Super Bowl XXVII, the third straight championship appearance for the Buffalo Bills. The game was essentially over by halftime, as the Dallas Cowboys railroaded Buffalo 52-17.
Late in the game, the Cowboys’ Leon Lett had a chance to pile it on even more, picking up a fumble and taking off for a potential 64-yard touchdown. But as the defensive lineman let up and celebrated just before the goal line, Bills WR Don Beebe sprinted downfield and poked the ball away and out of the back of the end zone for a touchback.
In more ways than one, it is a proper inspiration for our Kentucky Derby entrant No Lett Down.
Coming up the outside out of nowhere: Who’s This Chucker?
You know him now as an analyst for the New York Mets. You remember him as a key cog of the franchise’s last World Series-winning team. But you love him as The Boyfriend in Seinfeld.
Keith Hernandez, the hero of Jerry Seinfeld, makes his way onto this list. And while we could have named our thoroughbred after the harrowing tale shared by Kramer and Newman, we instead go with the three-word phrase directed toward George Costanza and his ill-advised basketball shooting skills:
Who’s This Chucker?
A wire-to-wire victory for Perfect Gooney Bird
Game 5, 1956 World Series. The Yankees are on their way to a thrilling seven-game championship over the Brooklyn Dodgers.
But the series started not-so-great for the Yanks, falling into a 2-0 hole through two games. After winning the next two games to even the series, New York trotted out Don Larsen for the fifth game. And Larsen, to understate it, tossed a gem — the first and only perfect game in World Series history.
Larsen was ultimately named the World Series MVP. He also enjoyed his fair share of antics and partying, to the point that teammates nicknamed him “Gooney Bird.”
Tell me that wouldn’t become the greatest Derby- and Triple Crown-winning horse name: Perfect Gooney Bird.