The owners of a two-year-old gray colt were fans of the 1960s rock group Steppenwolf and wanted to give him the same exact name as the band.
It was rejected by The Jockey Club, as was their second choice, Step N Wolf. Too commercial, the official breed registry for thorough-breds in North America ruled last year.
Undeterred, owners Robert and Lawana Low looked to the colt's dam, Wolfer, and came up with Steppenwolfer. Permission granted.
A year after buying the colt for US$375,000, the Lows, and trainer Dan Peitz, are hoping Steppenwolfer was born to win the US$1 million Belmont Stakes on Saturday.
"I believe he was," Peitz said. "There's nothing he's showing me that makes me think he's not going to run all day."
Which is exactly what needs to happen for a three-year-old to win the 2,400m Belmont, the longest and most grueling of the US Triple Crown races.
Steppenwolfer is 9-2 on the morning line, the third betting choice in the 12-horse field behind 3-1 favorite Bluegrass Cat and 4-1 Sunriver, both trained by Todd Pletcher.
In the 2,000m Kentucky Derby, Steppenwolfer made a six-wide closing move and finished third. He was held out of the 1,900m Preakness at speed-favoring Pimlico, and last Friday put in a sizzling final tuneup for the Belmont.