Decoding Kentucky Derby Horses’ Names, Because They Can Tell You A Lot About This Year's Contenders

This Saturday, the Kentucky Derby starting bell will be rung for the 141st time. 21 horses and their jockeys will run for the roses at The Run for the Roses. While I am not much at understanding betting odds or statistics or mathematics in general, I am a bit of a savant when it comes to interpreting racehorse names. I know bragging is unbecoming, but I’m not going to downplay my skills ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. Not this time. I can deduce very specific details about a horse from its moniker. Like, VERY specific details.

(Here's a little-known fact that I definitely didn't make up: Racehorses pick their own names. Their names directly reflect their personalities, interests, hobbies, and so on. Cool, huh?)

I’ve decoded the names of all 21 horses racing in the 2015 Kentucky Derby. Let's get to know the contenders, shall we?

Ocho Ocho Ocho

“Ocho” is the Spanish word for “eight.” “Eight” is a homophone of “ate.” “Ate Ate Ate” = one helping was not enough. Two helpings were not enough. Three helpings did the trick. This is a hungry horse. But this horse doesn't just have a big appetite for food; Ocho Ocho Ocho has a huge appetite for victory.

Carpe Diem

This horse collects inspirational plaques and wall hangings. He begins every morning with positive affirmations. His favorite musical is The Newsies. (And yes, his favorite song is "Seize The Day".)


When he’s not training for horse races, Materiality is working on his thesis: Does Matter Matter? A Look At The Matterless.


Tencendur is not named after King Charlemagne’s horse. Tencendur is King Charlemagne’s horse. Tencendur has over one thousand years of experience under his belt.

Danzig Moon

This horse is the “rebel” of the group: He can often be spotted lifting up his tail to, well, moon the competition. He loves to listen to metal.


His name means “cheery” in Arabic, but don’t assume Mubtaahij is too friendly to fight for a win. He isn't friendly at all. He's mean as can be, and he gets a kick out of his personality not matching his name.

El Kabeir

The name Kabeir is Sanskrit for “in honor of Saint Kabir.” El Kabeir can't get enough of Kabir's poetry. He wants to get "The moon shines in my body, but my blind eyes cannot see it" tattooed on his ribcage, but he's scared of needles.


Dortmund wants to retire in Westphalia.


There is only one type of tie Bolo likes: the bolo tie. Bolo hates neckties, bow ties, hair ties, and ties for first place.

Firing Lane

Firing Lane's favorite Mad Men character is Layne Price. He hates Don Draper for a number of reasons, but he REALLY despises Don for firing Layne. He wanted to honor Layne Price, but he thought "Firing Layne" would be too on-the-nose. So, he went with "Firing Lane," à la a lane on a racetrack.

International Star

International Star is actually two world-famous celebrities in a horse costume.


Itsaknockout, pronounced “eets-ack-noe-koe-uht," is Horse for “apples cause stomachaches.” Itsaknockout learned this the hard way when he broke into a orchard and wolfed down a tree's worth of apples.

Keen Ice

Keen Ice owns and operates a shaved ice shop in his hometown. The name of the store: Ice Keen Fundae. He told all of his customers that if he doesn't win the Derby, he'll give away free shaved ices the following weekend.


Frosted does not cuss, but he does like to say "go frost yourself." He didn't know he was referencing How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days until he watched the movie for the first time a few months ago.

War Story

War Story is a huge Evanescence fan.

Mr. Z

Mr. Z takes his sleep very seriously. Cannot function if he doesn't get a full night of rest. He bought a noise machine for his stable because his neighbor whinnies loudly in his sleep.

American Pharoah

The misspelling of “pharaoh” is intentional. American Pharoah thinks it's hilarious when his name confuses others. One time, another horse was genuinely convinced his name was "American P-haro-ah", and American Pharoah laughed until he wet himself.


The only water Upstart drinks? Bling H2O.

Far Right

Far Right lives life in the far right lane, aka the exit lane, aka the slow lane. Far Right is a chill dude.


“Frammento” is Italian for “fragment.” His slogan: "There's only a frammento of a chance Frammento won't do a victory dance". Frammento loves to win, yes, but he LOVES to dance.

...There you have it! Some fun facts facts about each competitor! Facts that I totally did not pull out of thin air! Totes legit, not-fabricated facts!

Happy Derby Day!

Image: mamuro5254/tumblr