How the Cheltenham favourites got their names

posted by Chris Valentine

Have you ever watched one of the major horse races or even looked at a race card and wondered how the horses get their names? More often than not, they’re weird and whimsical, but believe it or not, there’s a methodology there.

There are also a number of rules which owners need to adhere to before having their horses’ names confirmed. One of the main rules regarding names is that they cannot be more than 18 characters long, including spacing and punctuation. So strangely, while EighteenCharacters is an acceptable name (not that there is a horse with such a name), Eighteen Characters is not.

Would you believe that owners can submit up to six names at any given time and the board of the Jockey Club will decide on the name they like? But owners can also then pay a fee for a new name if they do not like the one they’re given.

The most common way that horses get their names are through their pedigree – taking their name from one side of their lineage, or cleverly merging the dam (mother) and sire’s (father) name.

Ahead of the 2020 Cheltenham Festival, let’s take a look at how some of the early favourites got their names and if you like the sound of them, check out the latest odds with horse racing betting with Betfair today.

Defi Du Seuil

Ridden by Barry Geraghty, the French-bred horse is set to compete in the Queen Mother Champion Chase, The Festival Trophy and the Gold Cup at this year’s meeting and is one of the early favourites to win at least one race. At last year’s Cheltenham Festival, Defi Du Seuil won the Novices’ Chase by two-and-a-quarter lengths over Lostintranslation. The seven-year-old bay gelding gets his name from his dam, Quarvine Du Seuil.


The seven-year-old bay gelding takes his name from both sides of his lineage. The Irish-bred’s dam is called Battle Over, while his sire is called Doyen. Trained by the famous and successful Gordon Elliott, Battleoverdoyen is set to enter the RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase and the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase this year, having made his debut at Cheltenham last March – pulling up in the Baring Bingham Novices’ Hurdle.

Al Boum Photo

Al Boum Photo famously won last year’s Gold Cup when he wasn’t the favourite – beating Anibale Fly by two-and-a-half lengths. This year, Willie Mullin’s eight-year-old bay gelding looks to defend his crown, with the added pressure of being made the early favourite. The French thoroughbred takes his name from both sides of his lineage: dam Al Gane and sire Buck’s Boum.

Klassical Dream

It’s likely that one of Mullins’ other horses, Klassical Dream, will be entered into three races at this year’s Cheltenham Festival: the Arkle Challenge Trophy, the Champion Hurdle and the Golden Miller Novices’ Chase. Last year, the bay gelding won the Novices’ Hurdle in his third race in England, having transferred from Mademoiselle Isabelle Gallorini’s French yard. But where did he get his name? Well, like many of the others in our list, both sides of his lineage. ‘Klassical’ from his dam, Klassical Way, and ‘Dream’ from sire, Dream Well. Interestingly, Dream Well got his name from both sides of his lineage, but who knows the reasoning behind Klassical Way.

Presenting Percy

Presenting Percy was last year’s favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, with Davy Russell eventually riding him to an eighth-place finish. The nine-year-old takes his name from his sire, Sir Percy, with a nod to his dam’s sire who was Presenting – his dam is the Irish-bred Hunca Munca. This year, expect to see Presenting Percy contest the Gold Cup once more, as well as The Festival Trophy and Stayers’ Hurdles.

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