The name game: Scott Farber

Ken Weingartner

Hightstown, NJ — Harness racing fans are likely familiar with Scott Farber’s Hambletonian champion Cool Papa Bell, named after the late Negro Leagues star and 1974 National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee, but when it comes to naming his horses, the breeder/owner of Runthetable Stables finds inspiration from a variety of sources beyond sports.

“It’s an interesting process,” Farber said. “A name could come from a song, it could come from a character, it could come from a TV show or a movie, or even just from conversation. I write them down on a running list and at the end of the year I pick 10 or so. I have four kids and we all vote on them, and whichever ones end up with the most votes, those are the ones we go with.”

Take, for example, the homebred 2-year-old male trotter dubbed Wild Bill Kelso after John Belushi’s character in the movie “1941.” Out of the mare Broadway Jo Ell, it was Wild Bill Kelso’s sire, Crazy Wow, that led to his name.

“He was a wild character,” Farber said about Wild Bill Kelso. “And that’s like what John Belushi was in real life and in the movies. People would be like, ‘crazy, wow,’ anytime he would do something.”

Wild Bill Kelso, the horse, is a two-time winner in the New York Sire Stakes and third in the series points standings. Geri Schwarz photo.

Wild Bill Kelso, the horse, is a two-time winner in the New York Sire Stakes and third in the series points standings. He will race in the NYSS championship on Sept. 10.

“I’m very excited about him,” Farber said. “I think he’s only going to get better on a big track. He’s a big, strong horse. I’m not making any forecasts, who knows what’s going to happen, but right now I really like where he’s at. We’re going to race him in the New York Sire Stakes final, and if that goes well, we’ll bring him to Kentucky and give him a shot against the open company on the big track and see what happens.”

Wild Bill Kelso, who was Broadway Jo Ell’s first foal, has a half-brother named Executive Game. The yearling’s name is a reference to a storyline regarding a high-stakes poker game in a second-season episode of “The Sopranos.”

Another 2-year-old bred by Farber is female trotter Lie In Wait, who recently lived up to her name by notching her first win in three starts off a pocket trip in a Pennsylvania Stallion Series race at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.

“She actually was lying in wait,” Farber said. “I really love that name a lot. It’s one of my favorites. I try to think of things involved in speed or competition. To me, especially at tracks with a passing lane, you just want to lie in wait. I like to see my horses race from off the pace a little bit. I like when they can be in a good position, where they’re lying in wait, and when it’s time to go, they go.”

Lie In Wait has a yearling full sister named Wendy Peffercorn after a character in the movie “The Sandlot.”

Scott Farber in the winner’s circle after Next Level Stuff won the 2020 Breeders Crown for 3-year-old filly trotters. USTA/Mark Hall photo.

Farber’s female trotter Next Level Stuff, who won a 2020 Breeders Crown at age 3, like Cool Papa Bell comes from a baseball background.

“I was a watching a game and they would talk about prospects down on the farm (in the minor leagues) and would say he has next level stuff,” Farber said. “So, that’s where her name came from.”

Other names for Farber-bred horses include Greenspan (Bud Greenspan, sports documentary filmmaker), Hobbs (Roy Hobbs, from the movie “The Natural”), Love Her Madly (song by The Doors), and That’s All Folks (from the Looney Tunes closing sequence).

Nothing, though, might ever top Cool Papa Bell, who was named Seven Year Itch when Farber purchased him as a yearling. Stories of Cool Papa Bell’s speed were legendary, most notably Satchel Paige’s oft-repeated tale that Bell was so fast he could flip off the light switch and be in bed before the room was dark.

“Obviously, I’m very proud of Cool Papa Bell,” said Farber, himself a former college baseball standout, about the Jim Campbell-trained Hambletonian winner. “Jimmy was excited when I told him the name. He had not heard of Cool Papa Bell, and when I explained the story to him, he thought it was really cool and a great idea. We went forward with it, and I’m really glad that I did.”

Cool Papa Bell emerged belatedly to upset at 52-1 in the 97th edition of the Hambletonian, for 3-year-old trotters. Lisa photo.

Farber has rewatched Cool Papa Bell’s win numerous times since his victory on Aug. 6 at The Meadowlands and enjoyed every moment associated with the triumph.

“Jimmy and his crew really had him ready for that race, and the drive Todd McCarthy gave is as good a drive I can ever remember seeing,” Farber said.

“I never look at it as being about me,” he added. “It’s about the experience. There is no topping this.”

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