What’s in a Name?
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

One of the many fun things about racing is that you can occasionally learn a bit about its history from names of stakes races. Sometimes a stakes race is named for a location such as a neighboring town or point of local interest, this Saturday’s Grade 2 Sand’s Point at Belmont Park is just such a race. There’s usually not too much to learn about racing history in these cases but the races named for a prominent owner or patron of the track (think Vanderbilt or Whitney) or a horse of historic or local significance are where you can dig in and discover something fun.

As I was looking over entries for this Saturday I noticed that Churchill Downs is running a non-graded stakes for champion and Hall of Famer Open Mind. Since we have a post on the Triple Tiara, a currently defunct racing series for fillies that Open Mind swept in 1989, I already knew of her. But let’s say I didn’t. The best way to go about it is to take the horse’s name and add “horse” to your search: Open Mind horse.

Questions of accuracy aside, most notable Thoroughbred horses will have an entry at Wikipedia, where you can generally get an overview of stakes wins and awards, and sometimes even some detailed back story. In our example of Open Mind, we discover that she was quite an accomplished filly. Named 1988 Champion 2-year-old filly and 1989 Champion 3-year-old filly, she won such notable races as the Breeders’Cup Juvenile Fillies, the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn, Alabama, Coaching Club American Oaks and the Mother Goose. She entered the Hall of Fame in 2011 and was trained by D. Wayne Lukas, who currently trains reigning 3-year-old champ Will Take Charge.

There are also a few replays available at YouTube for Open Mind

1988 BC Juvenile Fillies

1989 Alabama

1989 Mother Goose

Back to the entries for this Saturday, there are a few other examples, or at least potential examples, of races named for notable horses. Arlington Park will run the Grade 3 Pucker Up, named for the Champion Older Female of 1957 who won the Arlington Matron and Washington Park Handicap locally as well as the Beldame at Belmont Park and the Spinster at Keeneland.

And then there’s the Jamestown Stakes at Laurel, which could be named for the Co-champion 2-year-old colt of 1930 or perhaps for Jamestown Virginia (the race is for juvenile Virginia-breds, so it could go either way!). Mid-Atlantic racing maven and publisher of The Racing Biz, Frank Vespe, suspected it was the latter when I inquired, but was not entirely sure. Either way, in this case one could learn a little something about racing history via Jamestown the horse.

It should be noted that races that bear the name of a horse are not always an homage to the namesake’s achievements. For example, the Open Mind is run at 6 furlongs but its namesake was best known for winning at distances well beyond that. One of the best examples of this is the Grade 1 Sword Dancer run at Saratoga on the turf, named for accomplished dirt horse and 1959 Horse of the Year Sword Dancer!

So, when you’re not sure about that race name, do a little digging and you might learn something interesting!

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