The Horses Of The 2020 Derby


The origin of horse names can depend greatly on their the breed, breeder and sometimes it is just plain chaos. My horse is named after a McDonald’s food for heavens sake. By my horse is not an elite three year old Thoroughbred running in the 146th Kentucky Derby. For those athletically gifted equines, you would expect a certain element of bourgeois tradition. But then again, they are horses and sometimes, you just want a good laugh.

Here are the etymologies of the 2020 Kentucky Derby horses’ names. 


 This horse’s name obviously comes out of pro sports. In fact, Max Player is more than just named after pro sports, he is owned by financial firm SportBLX Thoroughbreds. The horse is invested in by over 700 people, including former UK basketball player PJ Washington. “In anticipation of PJ’s future stardom in the NBA, we thought it would be a nice name for a horse,” said George E. Hall, Executive Chairman of SportBLX.

max player kentucky derby horse names cowgirl magazine

Max Player (left) photo courtesy PJ Washington (right) photo courtesy Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports.


I never though we would see a horse inspired by Cardi B, but here we are. After Robert LaPenta’s bid was acknowledged at the 2019 Ocala, Florida sales, Cardi’s “bodak Yellow” played on the sound system … and so here we are.

Listen to the song that inspired LaPenta here.


Owner Chester Thomas is one for patterns, if they pay out well. Mr. Big News’ stable mate, Mr. Money, ran well in 2019. So they kept the “mister theme” and are hoping the second of this duo runs well too. “Big” pays homage to the horse’s sire, Giant’s Causeway.


 Owner Jeff Pearl said, “My daughter, who is a high schooler, this is the first horse she named. Her name is Rowan and in a nod to Winning Impression’s sire, who is Paynter, she picked a famous painter: Monet.” One Monet painting is called Impression, Sunrise. “Thus the name,” Pearl said. I would not have thought this way as a highschool student, but color me impressed!


 If you have multiple business ventures, why not just use terms interchangeably? Owner Jim Bakke, president and CEO appliance manufacturer of Sub-Zero Group, Inc, could not agree more.”Attachment rate” in appliance manufacturing is a marketing term used to “represent the number of units of a secondary product/service sold as a direct or implied consequence of the sale of a primary product/service”.


Although reminding me of a antiquated phrase my grand parents would use. Owner and Under Armour CEO, Kevin Plank, named this horse after his friend’s private island in the British Virgin islands. Oh, to have a private island!

necker island kentucky derby horse names cowgirl magazine

Necker Island in British Virgin Islands (left) photo courtesy Virgin Limited Edition. Necker Island (horse, right) photo courtesy


While he may lay down the law, “Tiz” is a family name. This young horse out of Tizfiz, by Constitution, is sure to make the track his court.


Another horse with a play on the family’s name. Authentic’s breeder, Peter Blum, says the name comes from his dam, Flawless.


Now this take me back to high school. But unlike my first thought, this horse is also named for their family. The sire was Honor Code, whose sire was 1992 Belmont Stakes winner, A.P. Indy. Hence, A.P. Honor. Thank goodness it is not A.P. chemistry. 


Thankfully I have avoided NY Traffic, but this horse’s owner has not been so lucky.  Owner John Fanelli changed the horse’s name from Linden Lane to more of a family name mixed with his commute from New Jersey. The horse’s sire is Cross Traffic. 


Another pro sports connection! Part-owner, former Major League baseball player Victor Martinez named the horse for his father, Guillermo Martinez. The horse has now been scratched from the derby due to a fever. 


The old saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well as a yearling, this stunner cost $1 million, so maybe that saying needs to be changed to “a Thousands Words means a million dollars.”


 We all know the company Under Armour, but did you know founder, Kevin Plank is a huge horse racing fan? This is even the second time Kevin has been mentioned on this list. Kevin, the original owner of South Bend, named the horse after the hometown of one of the university football teams his company outfits. Notre Dame is located in South Bend, Indiana.


Arguably one of the most straight forward names, trainer Mark Casse said “He liked the name, and it’s a strong name.”


Named after tennis star Roger Federer.


For more information on the horses running in the 2020 Kentucky Derby, visit The 2020 Kentucky Derby Is On.

All information adapted from Lexington Herald Leader’s “Here is the origin of every horse’s name in the 2020 Kentucky Derby”

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