Horse racing may be the sport of kings, but it has often looked to the world of football for inspiration when it comes to naming duties – with some iconic figures more at home on a pitch seeing their exploits recognised by those on the track.
With the Cheltenham Festival upon us once more in 2022, soccer stars from across the globe will allow their attention to shift momentarily from the pursuit of precious points to bids for Champion Hurdle and Gold Cup success.
Who knows, in the future some of those currently plying their trade on European pitches may one day be immortalised by those clearing hurdles and fences in Gloucestershire - with there plenty of football-themed names to be found in racing circles. Here, GOAL takes a look at just a few…
- Best Lionel Messi goals of all time: From Clasico crackers to Champions League solo efforts
- Yorkshire Terriers: Inside 25 years of the oldest team in Britain's LGBTQ+ league
- Dylan Williams: The Ashley Cole superfan making waves at Chelsea
- Messi's birthday: Argentina legend's top 10 best games for his country as he turns 35
Which racehorses have been named after footballers?
It comes as little surprise to find that there are Messi and Ronaldo horses doing the rounds on the racing circuit, with the former – bred and trained by Gestut Brummerhof - boasting 10 race wins while the latter is yet to emulate the success enjoyed by a legendary Manchester United namesake.
Zlatan, which boasts an obvious nod to a veteran striker at AC Milan, is another multiple winner, while Aguerooo has proved to be as prolific as the former Manchester City striker – with the P E Axon-owned and Charlie Wallis-trained seven-year-old claiming 16 successes in its career.
Paul Nicholls trained Christopher Wood to 12 victories in 46 outings and De Bruyne Horse has won twice on the fibresand at Southwell this year.
John Terry was once a three-time winner for Amanda Perrett, Bielsa claimed the same number of successes for Kevin Ryan in 2019 and Baggio has six race wins in Ireland to its name.
Ooh Ah Cantona, who retired at Manchester United in 1997, won five times during a 29-run career and a horse called Zidane won the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood in 2007.
There are no prizes for guessing who Switcharooney – who once raced out of the stables owned by Michael Owen – is named after, and the same can be said for Captain Gerrard, Bergkamp, Van Basten, Klopp, Van Dijk and Defoe.
A horse named Schmeichel – after former United goalkeeper Peter – ran 10 times in Ireland between 1992 and 1994, while King Power Racing Co have Fox Vardy and Fox Shinji within their fleet.
Leeds fans Martin and Iris Wainwright, who run Highbank Stud, have had horses named Pablo Hernandez, Radebe, Bremner and Reviette.
Yorkshire Pirlo – a homage to Kalvin Phillips – is another link between Leeds and racing, while Tom George’s The Romford Pele is named after former Arsenal and England winger Ray Parlour, Busby is a nod to an iconic Manchester United manager of the past and King Kevin – who won five times across 24 outings – recognises the efforts ex-Liverpool star and England boss Kevin Keegan.
Ooh Ah Cantona
Marco van Basten
Virgil van Dijk
The Romford Pele
Which racehorses have been named after football grounds or teams?
It is not just players that get a nod from horse owners and trainers, as some more generic names from football also figure prominently on the racing scene.
John and Heather Snook favour orange and black silks for their jockeys, in support of their beloved Wolverhampton Wanderers, and have seen those colours ridden to Cheltenham Festival and King George success by the brilliant Thistlecrack.
They, rather unsurprisingly, also have a horse named Molineaux on their books.
Elsewhere, there have been runs for Anfield, Stamford Bridge and Goodison Park down the years while over in America, Kaleem Shah has enjoyed success with Bayern and Dortmund.