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  • Writer's pictureFran Cleland

Naming horses has become a life's work for Suzanne


ABOVE: Octagonal - named by Suzanne Philcox.

GIVING a horse a suitable name is a lot harder than one would think.


Show ponies get saddled with dreamy, reflective names, Welsh Pony breeders go for unpronounceable Welsh names and “desert” seems to pop up as the first half of the name in Arabian horses.


Dressage horses that have never set foot in Germany are often saddled with Middle European names.


However, the hardest of all tasks is the naming of Thoroughbred horses.


Some truly weird names pop up and some, like the current horse that races as Memumsmedad is pure genius.


Sired by the English stallion Redwood, his dam is the Australian mare also named Redwood. Pretty confusing for the stud book.


The Australian Stud Book keepers have a hawk eye for hidden swear words and won’t allow repeat names of famous horses. Even the length of names is restricted.


Suzanne Philcox is famous for her ability to find great names every year.


Suzanne, who is Godolphin’s statistician in Australia, began naming horses in 1987 for Jack and Bob Ingham’s Woodlands Stud and continued in the same role after His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Al Maktoum acquired Woodlands in 2008.


She describes the beautiful and talented champion Octagonal as “my favourite horse and my best name”. He was named for his dam, Eight Carat, and she names many of the 100-plus youngsters each year via their mothers.


Strategic, Clang and Destruct are all foals produced by the mare Sudden Impulse.


Light Work, More Haste and Less Speed are the progeny of Many Hands and Le Mans, Suzuka, Imola, Magny Cours and Interlagos are all out of the mare Road To Glory and named for F1 racetracks.


It’s often interesting when the Godolphin horses are racing just to check their pedigree and work out how Suzanne has arrived at the name.


She has put her mark on most of Australia’s great races.


Winners of Cox Plates, Golden Slippers, Guineas and various cup races all carry names carefully selected by her, and she knows all the families at the stud going right back to when she started naming them in the 1980s.


She has named 112 two-year-olds starting out this season, and says her favourite is “Jambalaya”.


“He’s by Shooting to Win out of Crevettine,” she said. “Crevettine means shrimp and Jambalaya is a creole dish with sausage, shrimp and rice.”


After naming almost 10,000 young horses Suzanne says she is very familiar with the breeding lines.


“It’s got to the stage where now I’m looking at horses from families I have named for eight or nine generations,” she says.


“I’m always looking for a name with meaning, something that will be memorable. I generally have a pen and paper handy in case something comes to me.”


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