The Jockey Club

By: Courtney Zimmerman

It’s that time again…time for another field trip! Our schedules are jam-packed with field trips and special events for the interns to participate in (the ultimate goal is for us to learn!) and this week we went to The Jockey Club. After much debate on transportation, Jill, Amanda, Annalisa, the high school “honorary intern,” Tamar, the PhD candidate studying at the Horse Park and MMSC (I suppose she is another “honorary intern”), Susanna and myself all piled into cars and made our way to The Jockey Club. I’ll be honest, I had no idea what to expect; I was a little shocked when we pulled into an office park. An office park?! Since when does anything horse-related have their facility solely in a city high-riser? Well, apparently that’s the norm for organizations who only deal with paperwork… huh (note the sarcasm here). We were greeted by our host, Andrew Chesser, who generously dedicated a good portion of his afternoon to us. He was an intern at The Jockey Club before graduating from UK and is now the Customer Service Coordinator.

Amanda, Courtney, Susanna, Jill & Annalisa in front of The Jockey Club

The Jockey Club is the regulatory body that oversees all aspects of registering a Thoroughbred racehorse. When a foal is born, when a mare or stud dies, and when any horse is sold, all of the corresponding information must be sent through The Jockey Club for their records. Every Thoroughbred must have a tattoo on their upper lip that consists of a unique combination of letters and numbers so that they can be properly identified whether they are raced, bred or sold. Without the proper registration paperwork or this unique tattoo, a Thoroughbred cannot race in the United States, Canada or Puerto Rico.

I thought the naming process for Thoroughbreds was the most interesting aspect of The Jockey Club. There are so many rules that need to be abided, it’s a wonder that people are still able to come up with a unique name for every horse! A registered Thoroughbred’s name cannot be more than 18 characters (including spaces), cannot include numbers or solely initials, and cannot be a duplicate of any other horse registered within The Jockey Club or any horse’s name that is permanently saved (such as Secretariat). This also includes any names that are phonetically similar. The proposed names also cannot refer to anything vulgar nor have commercial significance; looks like we won’t be cheering for a “Lady Gaga” at any finish lines. The most incredible part about this process is that The Jockey Club has software that can automatically scan for violations of all of these rules, and even has links to sites such as “Urban Dictionary” for vulgar references. So much for people attempting to be sneaky! With all of these hoops to jump through, it’s amazing how creative people can be. Some people are inspired by political or pop-culture references (Nosupeforyou, anyone?) and others stick to somehow combining the names of a foal’s dam and sire; the innovative efforts that some put into this process is what astonishes me. Some of my favorites include: Alphabet Soup (out of Illiterate), Odor in the Court (by Judge Smells), Fuss Fuss Fuss (out of Nag Nag Nag) and Plagiarist (by Word Pirate). Owners must submit a valid attempt for an acceptable name before February 1 of the foal’s first year before they are fined.

Example of a pedigree for Sebring. Note how the names are combined as the lineage continues.

Through this demonstration, we learned the basics for the entire registration process and I know that we all gained something we had not known before entering this office park: Annalisa inadvertently learned the age of a mare she owns after Andrew looked it up in the software, and Susanna acquired paperwork that is required for selling a horse without a pedigree. Who would have guessed that this short adventure would have provided us with so much important and interesting information for us! Now that we have learned the paperwork process behind the scenes of Thoroughbred racing, I am even more excited for our next field trip…to Churchill Downs!