When Thoroughbred owner Steven McCanne partnered with trainer Bob Hess Jr. to claim a 5-year-old California-bred gelding for $40,000 at Del Mar last Nov. 27, he said he was taken aback somewhat by the horse’s name: Royal Trump.
McCanne assumed breeders Larry and Marianne Williams named the son of Ministers Wild Cat after Donald J. Trump, the 45th president of the United States. The horse, produced from a mare named Royal Woodman, was foaled on May 8, 2015, a month before Trump announced his candidacy for president. He would have been named at a later date.
“I didn’t want to make a political statement, but it just felt controversial,” said McCanne. “The election had just happened. Trump is a character, but I thought, ‘It’s a little like Covfefe” – a reference to the LNJ Foxwoods-owned runner named after a Trump late night Tweet. Covfefe, would go on to win six of eight starts including the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint and be named champion female sprinter of 2019.
Royal Trump hasn’t been quite as successful, though he won six of 24 starts, earning over $200,000, when McCanne and Hess claimed him last November.
Then the insurrection of Jan. 6 happened, when thousands of Trump supporters who refused to accept the fact that Joe Biden defeated Trump in the election, stormed the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
At that moment, McCanne said, he wanted nothing to do with a horse connecting the term “royal” with “Trump.”
“He probably would like to be king,” McCanne said of the former president.
McCanne called Hess, asking if they could change the name. “I’m not that experienced as an owner,” said McCanne, a Northern California software entrepreneur who bought his first horses a few years ago. “Bob said, ‘You have to make a request to The Jockey Club. So I sent an email.”
McCanne came up with an appropriate substitute: Peaceful Transfer. That name is a reference to what is supposed to occur between the time of the presidential election in November and inauguration day in January when a new president is sworn into office. The Trump-Biden transfer of power was a rocky one.
McCanne emailed The Jockey Club on Jan. 8.
Dear Jockey Club,
I am writing to request a name change for the racehorse “Royal Trump,” claimed by me and Robert Hess, Jr. at Del Mar this past November.
At that time, I understood the name had a controversial connotation but it seemed to me a harmless joke.
Unfortunately, things are different now. After the events of this week, I feel the name has become critically controversial. No matter what one’s politics are, there are many strong emotions around the name “Trump.”
Names and words matter and their meaning and implications can evolve. I feel that the name “Trump” is now controversial enough that it may detract from the spirit and positivity of the racing culture. The last thing the sport (and the horse) need are loud boos from (some in) the crowd because “Royal Trump” enters the winner’s circle.
For these reasons, I humbly submit to the Jockey Club this proposal to change Royal Trump’s name to “Peaceful Transfer.”
Thank you for your consideration. Bob and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
According to The Jockey Club’s Rule Book, names can be changed at any time prior to a horse’s first race. “Ordinarily,” the rule continues, “no name change will be permitted after a horse has started in its first race or has been used for breeding (mating) purposes. However, in the event a name must be changed after a horse has started in its first race, both the old and new names should be used until the horse has raced three times following the name change.”
Royal Trump ran on Jan. 16, one week after McCanne’s request, then again on March 21 and on May 9 – all under his original name.
After the most recent start, McCanne was curious why the name hadn’t changed and sent another email to The Jockey Club. This time, he said, he received a response from The Jockey Club saying the change was approved.
Peaceful Transfer will be running under his new name for the first time on Saturday at Los Alamitos in Cypress, Calif., carrying a $40,000 claiming tag in an allowance race/optional claiming event.
This, incidentally, wasn’t the first Royal Trump in American horse racing. A Nebraska-bred Thoroughbred by that name, born in 1993, was a seven-time winner from 57 starts over six racing seasons.
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