How do Kentucky Derby racehorses get their names?

FILE-Sierra Leone, with Tyler Gaffalione up, wins the 100th edition of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes, a 200-point Kentucky Derby qualifier on the second day of the Keeneland Spring Meet, April 6, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky. (Silas Walker/Lexington H

The 150th Kentucky Derby will be enjoyed by many fans as they marvel at the talent of the horses on the track, but another unique feature of these thoroughbreds is the names.

Some of the horses competing in the racing spectacle this weekend, like Sierra Leone, Mystik Dan, and Catching Freedom, have to go through a detailed process to get their names.

What are the rules for racehorse names?

The Jockey Club is the official registry of all horses in the U.S. and Canada. The Lexington, Kentucky-based organization has the job of enforcing the naming guidelines for racehorses, according to the website. 

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Some horses use the same name multiple times, but typically, they can be used again after a thoroughbred has been out of racing or breeding for 10 years. 

The Jockey Club doesn’t allow certain words or phrases like "horse-related terms" such as "filly" or "colt." 

Horses can’t be named after a living person unless the organization approves and gets written permission to use them. Additionally, names with vulgar or obscene meanings are off-limits. Horse owners sometimes name their animals based on space markings or other physical appearance features.


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What are the names of the 2024 Kentucky Derby horses? 

Here are the names of the thoroughbreds competing in this weekend’s race. 

  1. Dornoch
  2. Sierra Leone
  3. Mystik Dan
  4. Catching Freedom
  5. Catalytic
  6. Just Steel
  7. Honor Marie
  8. Just a touch
  9. T O Password
  10. Forever Young
  11. Track Phantom
  12. West Saratoga
  13. Endlessly
  14. Domestic Product
  15. Grand Mo The First
  16. Fierceness
  17. Stronghold
  18. Resilience
  19. Society Man
  20. What to know
  21. Epic Ride

This story was reported from Washington, D.C.