The Kentucky Derby might be the best sporting event this great country has to offer. It is a day-long party with its own customs, its fancy clothes, its specialty beverages, its inherent connection to the gambling subculture that has helped prop up the American economy for 200 years.
It requires no prior commitment or understanding of the sport's rules or regulations. You don't even need to know who's racing. You just show up and watch horses run in a circle for two minutes. And drink a ton, outside, where it's finally starting to get warm. It is more American than the Super Bowl.
It's a nice touch, really, that this old-timey, julep-drinking, huge-hat-wearing downright ancient ritual fits in so well with our modern times. Every sport is obsessed with keeping your attention in this era of constant distraction, sopping with fret and worry that you'll be more transfixed by shorter, easier entertainment options. No worries with the Kentucky Derby: It's two minutes! You drink for four hours, you scream for two minutes, you drink for two more hours afterward, and that's your day. (This also sounds sort of like my prom.) You can't beat that.
But, as I mentioned last year, my favorite part of the Kentucky Derby is the horse names. I've yet to meet a single person who didn't look at the race list for the field at Churchill Downs and immediately pick the horse they're cheering for based on its name. Imagine if we did this in real life. The Name of the Year bracket would actually be how we select a president. ("Introducing President Amanda Miranda Panda.")
To my ears, here are the best Kentucky Derby horse names of all-time:
• Shut Up
• Odor In Court
• Nobiz Like Shobiz
• Barely Legal (this name has been used twice)
So, like last year, my only betting guide for the Derby is to rank the horse names. Danza was 2014's winner, and, looking over these new competitors, I can't see anything beating it.
You'll be amazed how the betting will track with the quality of these horse monikers There are 25 names. Here they are, ranked in ascending order of quality.
19. International Star. This isn't the name of a horse. It's the name of terrible singing show.
18. Materiality. Considering this is a massive capitalist enterprise with shockingly expensive clothing, drinks, tickets and entry fees … this one strikes one as a bit on the nose.
17. Upstart. The actual word "upset" was inspired by a horse name … one suspects "upstart" will not have the same lasting power.
16. Stanford. They should really make the Tree be the jockey.
15. Itsaknockout. These no-punctuation-just-all-smashed-together horse names always bother me. You can use punctuation. It's allowed. You're not texting; you're naming a horse. Pull it together. You realize, of course, that we're only a few years away from an emoji-named horse.
14. War Story. Man, this horse even sounds like a boring movie.
13. Carpe Diem. I can't believe this hasn't been a horse name before. It actually feels like a cliché already.
12. Keen Ice. Pretty sure this was a Brian Bosworth movie from the '80s.
11. Bolo. Let us never forget: Bruce Springsteen once put a picture of himself in a bolo tie on the cover of one of his albums. Never forgive!
10. Firing Line. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not so into the "method of execution" style of horse nomenclature. Though I might put some real money down on "Drawing and Quartering." I desperately want a horse to be named that.
9. Frosted. There's probably a joke here no one gets.
8. Frammento. Crap, I have to learn another Starbucks size?
7. Mr. Z. Every single adult male whose last name starts with a "Z" has inevitably ended up being called "Mr. Z," so if this horse wins, hey, big week for those guys.
6. Tencendur. This was the name of King Charlemagne's horse, which is a bit of trivia that will definitely get you a wedgie at your Kentucky Derby party.
5. American Pharoah. This would be a rather terrific "American Hustle" sequel, though it might be more fascinating if it were an "American Sniper" sequel.
4. Dortmund. Definitely the popular pick this year, though only among the presumably small crossover of people who watch the Bundesliga and are into the Kentucky Derby. There are probably more people like that than I think. Achtung!
3. Mubtaahij. This one wins many points because it's basically impossible to say after three Mint Juleps. So get your bets in early!
2. Ocho Ocho Ocho. This is actually a line of dialogue in the Spanish-language version of "The Brady Bunch." Next year, someone should definitely name a horse "Seis Seis Seis" just to freak everybody out.
1. Danzig Moon. Danzig! MOTHER!!!!!!!
(He's a little less imposing these days.)
Enjoy the race! Do Danza proud, Danzig!