After Garlic Boy’s exciting win on National Day there were a few fans who turned their noses up at what they felt was the horse’s ridiculous name, but it just doesn’t rank on a scale that runs from unimaginative to utterly ridiculous.
It’s only because of Fairy King Prawn’s greatness that his name can be uttered with a straight face – he made a mockery of the idea that a champion needed a strong, sensible name. After getting away with possibly the most poncy name of all time – thanks to him becoming a champion – the same owners bit off more than they could chew when they gave a new purchase the unfortunate moniker Won Ton King Prawn. Under the pressure of expectation, or perhaps through sheer shame and embarrassment, he was retired last season after only three starts.
Why couldn’t they just pick a normal name like Super Happy Lucky Dragon? Or some other type of Dragon? In the Year of the Dragon, there are only 18 Dragons racing. There needs to be more. The best of them, of course, is an Ambitious one – but there’s also a Legendary and Lord, and watch out for Superking Dragon returning to a racetrack soon. They are continuing the great legacy of more than 130 horses with Dragon in their name to have raced in the past two decades.
Sadly, there is no Happy Dragon, despite there being 21 “Happys” among the horse population – the overly exuberant Happy Yeah Yeah probably the best of them.
There was a Happy Dragon that raced in 2003-04 – he appears just after Handbag Dragon in the Hong Kong Jockey Club’s database – but that doesn’t mean you can’t name another horse Happy Dragon, and there is, of course, the option of naming a horse Happy Dragon II.
This was how the “Happy Win Syndicate” came up with the name King Of Fish II. You can understand when a kid wants to name their new cat Snowflake II, when old Snowflake floats up to the big kitty litter tray in the sky. But King Of Fish II? It was a dumb name to start with, and the only thing the original horse was “King of” was not winning – he won only four times in 96 starts and at one stage went winless for a tick under five years. Little wonder King Of Fish II is yet to win in 26 tries.
If a name is to be representative of a horse’s fortune, perhaps Lucky Nine’s connections should consider a change to “Unlucky Nine” after another overseas heartbreak on Sunday. If it isn’t hoof or shoe problems for this tenacious competitor, then he draws a bad gate, misses the start or is subject to terrible interference in a race.
Even his best distance makes him something of a “tweener” – he doesn’t quite have the dash of the top sprinters, and lacks the true stamina of the best milers, but nevertheless he’s full of toughness and all-round talent. He might be the world’s best 1,400m horse, but that’s like being the best human 300m sprinter in the world. It means you’re an amazing athlete, but you’ll never get the glory of a Usain Bolt because there’s no big prize for the 300m dash.
There’s a theory that local owners name their horses after what they desire – that would explain I Smell Money, Money Win Wins and the three former Lucky Moneys that have graced our turf – but by that theory the owners of Good Looking Watch and Best Noodle aren’t aiming very high.
The prefix “Good”, like “Super”, just makes any name better really, although Good Boy Boy and Super Pistachio certainly push the envelope. The prefix Fat Choy, however, would make anything sound ridiculous, but particularly if followed by Oohlala. Fat Choy Oohlala was joined at the stables of Dennis Yip Chor-hong last season by the relatively normal sounding Fat Choy Hong Kong, who was known as boring old “Tell Dad” when he raced in England, so that could be considered an improvement.
Of course, “Fat Choi” sounds similar to saying “strike it rich” in Cantonese, and forms part of the phrase ringing in everyone’s ears at Chinese New Year, “Kung Hei Fat Choi”. That auspicious moniker also belongs to a horse and he delivered the omen bet of the year at the Lunar New Year meeting in January.
The scary thing is the English spelt names represent just half of the horse names – every single runner has a Chinese name too, sometimes equally as absurd, but often bearing no relation to the English one. So maybe Garlic Boy was a bad translation – but it’s by no means the worst.