Famous Derby Horse Names and Meanings

Jessica McDaniel
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Derby Horse Names: Secretariat

The horse that started it all and that raced into the hearts of every human being who watched him win the mile and a quarter the famous way that he did, was Secretariat. He is the only horse to win the triple crown.

Secretariat's name is often associated with the word "secrete". This is honoring his human counterpart. "Secretariat" was the name of an American civil servant who provided Secretariat's owner, Penny Chenery, with medical facilities.

During the two year time period he raced, Secretariat was undefeated. He was however, temperamental with a person, but was a sweetheart with a horse. This was demonstrated as he saved another horse that was in a ditch. He also didn't like small spaces as evidenced by the fact that he refused to wear a blanket in his stall and played up when he was being prepared for showers.

Secretariat's name has also been the topic of curiosity because less than 15% of the U.S population were able to connect the meaning behind his name. It turns out that Secretariat was named after a relative he never knew, his father, who died of a heart attack at an early age.

The biblical connotation of the word "secretariat" also seems to play a significant role in Secretariat's life as the name was passed on to a son born out of wedlock.

Derby Horse Names: Smarty Jones

When it comes to racing in the United States of America, the Kentucky Derby is the most well-known horse race. Held in Louisville, Kentucky at Churchill Downs, it is the first of three races that make up The Triple Crown.

The first race was held in 1875, as a one-mile race. Now the Kentucky Derby runs for 1 1/4 miles.

Over time, many famous horse names have competed on the Kentucky Derby racecourse. However, one famous horse from this era stands out above the rest. This is the year 2005 Kentucky Derby when a horse named Smarty Jones dominated and created a lot of hype.

In the Kentucky Derby, Jones placed 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. This meant he won the bet, but just barely. Later, Jones won the Preakness, and the Belmont, but it was not enough to get the Triple Crown.

So, the horse that put on a show during the 2005 Kentucky Derby was named after the famous horse of the year Trainer Billy Smart got for his birthday. Mark Jones was the original owner of Smarty Jones. In honor of the horse, Jones named his new horse Smarty Jones.


Barbaro is a male thoroughbred. He won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 for trainer Michael Matz and jockey Edgar Prado. He had previously finished fifth in 2003's Kentucky Derby. He died in 2007 when he broke his leg during the Preakness.

Michael Matz was so invested in Barbaro that he invited the public to visit his horse in the days leading up the the Berkshire track races (which Barbaro subsequently lost).

Derby Horse Names: American Pharoah

Taking the horse racing community by storm in 2015 with a victory in the American Triple Crown and becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 36 years, American Pharoah is a household name. Pharoah is one of the most famous horse names, but Pharoah is not the only memorable name in the horse racing world. Here are some fun facts and popular horse names.

American Pharoah is named after Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs. The name was chosen by owner Ahmed Zayat.

I'll Have Another was the name of the horse that almost claimed a Triple Crown in 2012.

Secretariat was a popular horse that won many races, including the Triple Crown in 1973.

Ruffian was considered one of the best fillies in the racing world. Her name was drawn from the way she was hard to handle and she proved that she was worthy of the name throughout her racing career.

Cinnamon Girl was one of the most promising fillies of her time, but she was too much of a handful for her handlers and she died struggling during a race. Her name was also drawn from her personality and sweet disposition.

Bold Ruler was the son of Empire Maker. He was considered a "wunder colt" and was a great breeding stallion.

Known for his incredible speed, Rocknroll Hanover was named after the great speed displayed by Carl Lewis.


There is a small collection of horse names below that are derived from biblical names and English names from the middle ages. These horse names are suitable for both male horses and female horses.