British racing’s ruling body vowed to reexamine its review process for accepting racehorse names after a horse with a racist name slipped through the process and ran at Wolverhampton on Saturday evening.
Somehow, the British Horseracing Authority missed vetting a horse named Jungle Bunny. Going off at 50/1 in the Novice Stakes, the 3-year-old bay filly finished sixth out of 11 horses in her debut.
Put aside the fact the race announcer never mentioned the filly by name. That faded amid a blizzard of outrage at how a horse sporting a distinctly racial pejorative name for a black person slipped through the screening cracks. Not surprisingly, the Twittersphere outran our filly.
@BHAPressOffice "Jungle Bunny" is a deeply offensive racist insult. I'm gobsmacked to see a horse with this name entered to run tomorrow at Wolverhampton. You have to withdraw this horse ASAP to try to limit a PR disaster!
— buzz betny (@BetnyBuzz) December 11, 2020
“Question for the BHA primarily – can anyone explain how the racehorse name ‘Jungle Bunny’ has been approved (debuts in the 18:15 at Wolverhampton)? This is a highly offensive, derogatory racist term and surely inappropriate,” read one tweet.
BHA Apologizes Profusely
Two hours after the race – and after social media had spoken – the BHA tweeted an apology.
“This name is deeply offensive and should not have been permitted,” the tweet read. “It was not picked up by the team responsible for filtering names. This is a human process and this was a human error. We will be having the horse renamed at the earliest opportunity and apologise for offence caused.”
This name is deeply offensive and should not have been permitted. It was not picked up by the team responsible for filtering names. This is a human process and this was a human error. We will be having the horse renamed at the earliest opportunity and apologise for offence caused
— BHA Press Office (@BHAPressOffice) December 12, 2020
That happened almost as fast as the race. By early Sunday morning, Jungle Bunny became “Jungle Bells,” and all records pertaining to the filly now go by that name.
The BHA issued a statement that read “We reiterate the apology that was issued after the horse ran. Racist language is not tolerated in our sport, whether intentional or accidental. We are opposed to racism and prejudice in all its forms, and are committed to making British racing an open, diverse, and inclusive industry that is welcoming to all. We are deeply concerned as to how this happened, and are reviewing the processes for approving the names of racehorses.”
Where the Name Allegedly Came From
Emma Evans, the wife of horse owner-trainer David Evans, explained how this happened. She said the name came from the combination of the filly’s sire and a computer game. Emma Evans said the filly’s sire was named Bungle Inthejungle and that David Evans’ grandson played a computer game called “Jungle Bunny Run.”
“There was nothing racial about the name and nothing was meant by it,” David Evans told the Daily Mail.
How in the hell can you name a horse "Jungle Bunny" by mistake?? https://t.co/ysbvVVrc3d
— neverfadingwood (@Neverfadingwood) December 14, 2020
In the UK, the BHA and Weatherbys – the 250-year-old English version of the Jockey Club – handle responsibility for registering and vetting horse names. Those governing bodies enforce a few rules, the main one being that no name can have more than 18 characters.
What’s in a Racehorse Name?
In British horse racing, all names must be submitted to the BHA for approval. Primarily, this serves as a screening process, ensuring a current horse in training didn’t get the name first. It also prevents owners from piggy-backing on the names of racing legends. Don’t expect to see a Frankel or Enable anytime soon.
The third rule: names may not be lewd, crude or offensive.