Most Creative Horse Names In British Horse Racing History

Image of horses racing on a track

Most Creative Horse Names In British Horse Racing History

Horse racing has been entwined with UK culture for centuries. That love affair with horses and horse racing has led to a long and proud history and a culture of betting on the horses that predates any other form of sports betting on these islands. Every year millions of people in Ireland and the UK visit online betting sites to wager on the outcome of big races such as the Grand National, the Derby and the Cheltenham Gold Cup.

Naturally, the best horses have reached a level of fame that outstrips even human athletes and sportspeople, with many becoming household names. Those names are also part of the charm of horse racing. These beloved animals are often blessed with inventive and creative names that may have quirky origins, but that have become symbols of excellence and joy to racing fans.

  • Arkle

At first glance, Arkle was an unremarkable bay who had been bred on a farm at Malahow in County Dublin, Ireland, in 1957. He was later bought for 1,150 guineas by trainer Tom Dreaper, acting for the Duchess of Westminster, and spent a year on her Scottish estate. It was the Duchess who named him, after the Arkle, a mountain that overlooks her estate. His racing career began unremarkably. It took him three races to get off the mark and although he then began to rise through the handicap rankings, it wasn’t until Arkle took to fences that he showed his talent. In fact, he went on to win 22 of his 26 races over the bigger obstacles and was placed in the other four.

He was described by the commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan as a ‘freak of nature’ such was his dominance. He won three Cheltenham Gold Cups in the mid-1960s and ended his career with a Timeform rating of 210, a figure that no horse has ever come close to matching. In his retirement, Arkle became a celebrity in the news around the world and his name is synonymous with equine greatness.

  • Frankel

Frankel holds the distinction of being the best-thoroughbred racehorse in the world, outranking all rivals going back to 1977. Trained by the late Sir Henry Cecil, Frankel was named after the famous US trainer Bobby Frankel. He had died in November 2009 and when it came time to name the 170 yearlings at the Juddmonte breeding farm, it was decided that the best horse would be given the legendary trainer’s name. It proved to be a fitting epitaph.

The Galileo colt was not the first horse to go unbeaten in his career, but it was the manner of his victories that grabbed the public imagination. The win that had the biggest impact was the 2000 Guineas in 2011, in which Frankel destroyed a field of high-class colts, opening up a 15 length lead and easily holding on. He went on to win every major mile and ten-furlong contest in the UK and earned a final rating of 147, the highest-rated flat horse that Timeform had analysed in over 40 years.

  • Brigadier Gerard

Foaled in March 1968, Brigadier Gerard had impeccable breeding as the son of Sussex Stakes and Lockinge Stakes winner Queen’s Hussar and was a descendant on his dam’s side of the famous fillies’ Triple Stakes winner, Pretty Polly. He was named after the fictional hero created by Arthur Conan Doyle, and certainly lived up to his title! Trained by Major Dick Hern and ridden in all of his races by Joe Mercer, he was unbeaten as a two-year-old in 1970 and again as a three-year-old, sweeping all of the major mile races that season, before stepping up to win the Champions Stakes over ten furlongs.

With an amazing probability of betting odds in his races, his dominance continued as a four-year-old as he claimed the Eclipse Stakes, the Lockinge Stakes and King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes, eventually finishing with a record of 17 wins and one second place in his 18 runs.

  • Red Rum

Deriving a horse’s name from its sire and dam is not unusual but when the time came to name the son of Quorum and Mared, born at Rossenarra Stud in County Kilkenny, breeder Martyn McEnery took a more inventive approach than usual. Red Rum stands as one of the most famous racehorses in history as he took the last three letters of the dam’s name and the first three of the sire’s to come up with Red Rum, and a legend was born. Still, the gelding was not regarded as having huge potential. Bred to be a miler, he ended up coming into his own at the opposite end of the distance scale, showing enormous stamina, along with impeccable balance and jumping ability and a will to win that was remarkable.


After moving from yard to yard, he ended up with trainer and Southport car dealer Ginger McCain, whose unusual approach of training the horse on the sands of Southport enabled Red Rum to display his true form. He went on to dominate the staying steeplechase division in the mid-1970s, setting a Grand National record of three wins (1973, 1974, and 1977) as well as finishing second in 1975 and 1976. Remarkably, in a 100-race career, he didn’t fall once!


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