Photograph by Noah Silliman on Unsplash
Drive Sports and Fitness

From Mr. Prospector to Danding's Manila, these horses had memorable names

And their careers on the racetrack are nothing to scoff at
Aurelio Icasiano III | Jul 16 2019

The names of horses are often strange and intriguing, but this serves to distinguish them from all the other horses in the past, as well as the ones that are currently active. There are thousands, after all, which have run in the races, and this has led to a rather varied selection of names. Some, like Nefertiti and Haring Benedict, are regal and commanding, reflecting the hopes of its owners. Then, of course, you have names like Hello Hello and Hot And Spicy, which also served to attract bettors because their names stand out. Whether chosen for appeal or humor, by chance or inspiration, these uncommon names are something of a tradition, with more emerging each year. Only a handful, however, will be remembered long after their racing days are over. Here are a few that has stayed in the racing crowd consciousness.


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Mr. Prospector (1970-1999)

Photo courtesy of Mr. Prospector’s Facebook fanpage.

Mr. Prospector was a bay-colored stallion that won seven of his 14 career races, with two of those being major wins: the 1974 Gravesend Handicap and the 1974 Whirlaway Handicap (later called the Mineshaft Handicap). While this may not seem like much, it was in siring racehorses that the quality of Mr. Prospector’s bloodline would become known. 

He spawned one winner each for the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes, and was then named the Leading Sire in North America from 1987 to 1988. Later on, his grandson would repeat this accomplishment, siring a winner for each of the same races.


Northern Dancer (1979-1990)

Photograph from Wikimedia Commons

A Canadian-bred, bay-colored colt, Northern Dancer was one of the most famous racehorses, with nine major wins to his credit, including the 1964 Queen’s Plate in Canada and the prestigious Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in the same year. During his two-year career (1963-1964), Northern Dancer won all but four of his 18 races and never finished below third place. During his retirement, he proceeded to sire more than a hundred stakes winners, including Nijinsky II, which went on to win the English Triple Crown in 1970. The thoroughbred was so well respected that his image appears in a Canadian postage stamp, and was inducted into both the United States Racing Hall of Fame and the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.


Seattle Slew (1974-2002)

Photo courtesy of Seattle Slew’s Facebook fanpage

An American black stallion, Seattle Slew was the only horse to ever win the American Triple Crown while remaining undefeated. This means that he had finished first in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. This made him more than a little famous, and he was ranked at number nine in the popular Blood-Horse magazine’s list of top 100 US racehorses of the twentieth century. He went on to spawn other talented racehorses, including Swale, who won both the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in 1984, making him the Leading Sire in North America that year. His bloodline continues to be remembered today, and Seattle Slew himself was inducted into New York’s National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame for his historical run.


Manila (1983-2009)

Photo courtesy of Skip Dickstein’s Facebook fanpage

The grandson of Northern Dancer, Manila was bred by tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., and was subsequently bought by Bradley Shannon, who later entered the horse in the US racetracks. From 1986 to 1987, Manila racked up eight major wins, banked more than USD 2 million, and was inducted in 2008 into the United States Racing Hall of Fame. Manila died the following year while in Turkey.


This story originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 12 No 4 2013.