Horse owners talk about how they choose mounts' names

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 December, 2012, 3:28am

What's in a name? Quite a lot, if it identifies a racehorse in the city, and especially one that will run in the HK$72 million Longines Hong Kong International Races at Sha Tin next Sunday.

Local owners go to great lengths to make sure the names of their horses will bring them luck or bear a particular reference to something important to them.

Martin Siu Kim-sun, for example, owns Frederick Engels and Karl Marx - two names that stand out.

"We bought Frederick Engels from the UK and liked the name, so we just kept it," said Siu, the younger son of tycoon Siu Pak-kwan. "It was only after that I decided to change the name of another horse we bought to Karl Marx, just to have them in a specific group together. I didn't use these names because I was really into Communism or anything like that. It was just that when we already had a horse called Frederick Engels, why not call another Karl Marx? Both men created the theory of socialism, so if we already had one, we may as well have the other, too."

Karl Marx, who came from Australia, had a very different kind of name. The horse's sire was called Foreplay and its dam was Flickering Fire, so he was named Touchy Feely.

Siu's extended family is steeped in horse racing, with 16 horses in training in the city.

Seven of these will run on Sunday, including Frederick Engels. Two will compete in two of the day's big races - Irian in the Hong Kong Cup and Liberator in the Hong Kong Vase.

"Naming the next horse we buy is a family affair. We get together as a family and talk about it. We all have our own ideas and not everyone will agree, but once we have a consensus we'll name the horse," Siu said. "We don't want to give it a silly name as this is a serious business."

Former Jockey Club chairman Ronald Arculli always uses the word Red in his horses' names.

His horses Red Jazz and Red Cadeaux would be competing, the club's executive director of racing,Bill Nader, said. Simon Kwok Siu-ming, owner of the Sasa cosmetics chain, seeks beauty in his horses' names as well. On Sunday, he will have Beauty Mission and Beauty Flash in the races.

A fair share of horse names are considered to be words of fortune in Chinese culture, such as Lucky or Dragon, though owner Sidney Chiu Yung-sit names all his horses after composers - Beethoven, Berio, Berlinski, Tarrega, Taverner and Tchaikovsky.

"Owners can use whatever names they want as long as those are not for advertising purposes or are vulgar," said K.L. Cheng, head of the horse racing registry.

At this year's International Races some owners' names will also stand out. Britain's Queen Elizabeth has a runner named Carlton House in the Hong Kong Cup and actor Omar Sharif has one in the Mile called Don Bosco.