Australia’s biggest horse race, the Melbourne Cup, has been run every year since 1861.
On November 3, 1936, a horse named Wotan (VO-tahn) — a 100-1 underdog from New Zealand — ran it and won. His surprise victory was one of the biggest upsets in the race’s history.
That same day, a baby boy was born at Crown Street Women’s Hospital in Sydney. The baby’s father, Gregory Swain, announced that his son’s name would be Gregory Wotan Swain.
“I had no money on the winner. He was my Cup–a fine boy, 7 1/2 lb., when born. Our first,” Swain explained.
He expressed surprise to know that Wotan was also one of the names given to the god of battle by the Anglo-Saxons.
The name Wotan is a variant of Woden, which was indeed the name of a major Anglo-Saxon/Germanic deity. Woden and his Norse counterpart, Odin, can trace their names back to a reconstructed proto-Germanic word meaning something along the lines of “raging, mad, inspired.”
Related name story: A baby girl named Jacqueline, born a few years ago in Ireland, was also named after a racehorse. (Her dad was the jockey.)
- “Baby Named After Cup Winner.” Courier-Mail [Brisbane, Australia] 10 Nov. 1936: 16.
- Odin – Online Etymology Dictionary