The Jockey Club follows its rules, so when breeder Bonner Young sent in Caroline Thomas as a name request for a chestnut filly the response was predictable.
Thoroughbred racing's official registration service requires written permission to use the name of a living person. Young's granddaughter Caroline Thomas Rich put pencil to notebook paper and wrote in her best penmanship:
I give my Gramma permission to use my name. Please let her name the filly after me.
Caroline Thomas Rich, age 7
Surely, they laughed in Lexington and approved the name for Young, who went around the rule and recently named a Bernardini filly My Sweet Girl (also for her granddaughter).
"She's my horsewoman," said Young. "She's been to Churchill Downs, Keeneland, Belmont, Gulfstream, Saratoga."
Caroline Thomas the horse has won two of seven lifetime starts, placed in a stakes and is a player in today's My Princess Jess Stakes for trainer Barclay Tagg. The $100,000 race, restricted to 3-year-old fillies which have not won a sweepstakes on the turf, drew a typically contentious group of 12.
Only one is named for a 10-year-old Virginian with a website called carolinescorner.org. On the site, she reviews books and recently corresponded with Trudy Trueit (author of the Secrets of a Lab Rat and the Julep O'Toole series among others) about an interview.
Friday on the Saratoga backside, Caroline (the girl) sat on a Virginia Tech folding chair alongsider her grandmother and talked about what it's like to have a horse named for you. It's pretty cool, by the sound of things. Caroline's only school absences last year were for mornings spent in New York watching her namesake compete.
"I have a picture of her when she was little, she's very pretty," said Caroline of Caroline. "I saw her as a yearling I think in Kentucky, but I don't remember that much. I was in second grade. She's nice to me, but if you have a cookie in your hand she's nice to you."
Caroline Thomas (the filly) represents generations of breeding by Young, a Manassas, Va. resident who bought her first horse in 1980 because "she fell in love with Secretariat."
She campaigned Caroline Thomas' dam Bit Of Whimsy, a Grade 1 winner of more than $500,000, and her dam Kristi B, who lost all three of her career starts. Young bought Kristi B's dam Highland Mills through bloodstock agent Tyson Gilpin and started something of a dynasty as the mare produced major winners Highland Springs, Miss Josh, Highland Crystal and Royal Mountain Inn among others.
Highland Mills was so good as a broodmare that The Jockey Club informed Young that the name had been retired.
Frequently at Tagg's barn in the mornings, Young now has four mares, all related or as she calls them "cousins, aunts and half-sisters."
Caroline Thomas (the filly) fits in there somewhere, and she can run a little too. The daughter of Giant's Causeway impressed Tagg here last summer. After Saratoga, she finished second in her debut at Belmont in September and then won twice - a maiden at Aqueduct in November and an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park in December.
Since then it's been some tough luck. She was beaten a half-length in the Sweetest Chant Stakes at Gulfstream and was bounced around like a lottery ball when fifth in the Grade 3 Herecomesthebride in March. Fifth again behind a slow pace in the Grade 2 Sands Point, Caroline Thomas (the filly) rebounded by coming up a head and a nose short in the Bit Of Whimsy Stakes - yes the race is named for her dam - at Belmont June 16. She's worked four times since, three at Belmont and one on the turf here three days ago.
Like all owners, Young is hopeful but would probably be just as happy if Caroline Thomas (the filly) stayed in the barn.
"I love the horses, just love them," said Young, who goes by her middle name Bonner but whose given first name is Joyce. "They're like children to me which is good and bad. I love the mares and the babies. I tolerate racing to help support the mares. Racing is very hard for me, I get very uptight."
Good thing Caroline Thomas (the girl) is around for company.