Although it is an American bred race, Kentucky Derby winners often have exotic names partly because according to Jockey Club rules you cannot repeat the name of any “permanently named” horse and 55,000 name choices have already been taken. For this reason, horse owners often translate their favorite name into another language.
With an Italian inspired interest in today’s Run for the Roses I did a little homework to find two Kentucky Derby winners with Italian names, 2006 winner Barbaro (Italian for “barbarian” fierce or brave) and 2005 legend Giacomo (Italian for James). Giacomo is said to be named after the son of Sting (rather than for the Italian composer Puccini) who recorded for A&M record producer Jerry Moss, the horse’s owner.
Although Barbaro was known to be a head strong competitor with a bold heart the origin of his name has nothing to do with clashes between Romans and barbarians but rather with a 19th century portrait of the English foxhound Barbaro that hangs in the home of the racehorse’s owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, at Lael Farm, near West Grove, Pennsylvania.