One trainer nominated 10% of the 2014 Triple Crown-eligible 3-year-olds. Todd Pletcher conditions 42 of the 413 nominations to the 2014 race series comprised of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
Two-year-old stars of 2013 headed by unbeaten champion Shared Belief and stakes winners Honor Code, Cairo Prince and Havana top a roster that's an 11.9% increase from last year.
The total is the highest since 2009, when 401 horses were named. Eleven horses were nominated during the late phase that year to bring the overall total to 412. This year’s early nomination total almost surpassed the overall nomination total of 418 in 2012. There were 398 early nominees that year, and 20 were added during the late nomination period. The early-nomination record was set in 2008, when 449 horses were named.
Last year, the Triple Crown series attracted 369 early nominations. Thirteen horses were added during the late nomination phase, which brought total Triple Crown nominations for 2013 to 382.
Nominations to the 2014 Triple Crown opened Jan. 2, closed Jan. 25 and required payment of a $600 fee for each nominated horse. The late nomination period, requiring a payment $6,000, closes March 22.
The number made eligible by Pletcher and his owners is easily the highest total for an individual trainer since Churchill Downs, Pimlico Race Course and Belmont Park adopted a joint nominating process in 1986. Pletcher set the previous record for nominations with 32 in 2012.
Prominent among the Pletcher nominees are:
--Havana, the Champagne Stakes winner that experienced his only setback in three races when second to the now-retired New Year’s Day in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile;
--We Miss Artie, winner of the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland;
--Intense Holiday, fourth in the Champagne, fourth in the Nashua, fourth in the Remsen and most recently third in the Holy Bull Stakes.
--A collection of promising recent winners that includes Commissioner, Constitution, Anchor Down, Harpoon, Hartford and Matterhorn.
Pletcher also nominated a pair of stakes-winning fillies: Stopchargingmaria, winner of Aqueduct’s Demoiselle, and unbeaten Onlyforyou, who took Gulfstream Park’s Forward Gal on Jan. 25.
Of course, Shared Belief is in the spotlight. Fans are awaiting his first start of 2104, delayed by a nagging foot abscess issue.
Cairo Prince was the impressive winner of the Grade II Holy Bull after running second in the Remsen.
Honor Code, winner of the Remsen, had what's been called a minor setback with bruised back ankles and is awaiting a return to racing. Top Billing, a son of 2007 Preakness winner and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, was an impressive winner of a Jan. 25 allowance race at Gulfstream Park. Both are trained by Shug McCaughey, who trained Orb to the 2013 Kentucky Derby victory.
Other current stars are Strong Mandate, winner of the Hopeful for D. Wayne Lukas; Bond Holder, winner of the Front Runner for Doug O’Neill; Tamarando, the Hollendorfer-trained winner of the Del Mar Futurity; Tapiture, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes for trainer Steve Asmussen; and Holy Bull runner-up Conquest Titan, trained by Mark Casse.
Other horses with promise are Noble Moon, winner of the Jerome; In Trouble, winner of the Belmont Futurity; the Chad Brown-trained Bobby’s Kitten, third to Outstrip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and winner of the Pilgrim over the Belmont Park grass; Vicar’s in Trouble, winner of the Lecomte for trainer Mike Maker; and Tanzanite Cat, Bret Calhoun's winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes.
Along with the two nominated by Pletcher, 12 other females were named. Most prominent are Ria Antonia, winner by disqualification of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies for trainer Jeremiah Englehart; unbeaten Streaming, the Bob Baffert-trained winner of the Hollywood Starlet; and Unbridled Forever, winner of the Silverbulletday at Fair Grounds for trainer Dallas Stewart.
The most recent females to win each of the Triple Crown races were Winning Colors (1988 Kentucky Derby), Rachel Alexandra (2009 Preakness) and Rags to Riches (2007 Belmont Stakes).
As usual, the American Triple Crown series attracted nominations for horses based beyond U.S. borders, headed by four from the barn of Irish trainer Aidan O’Brien. His group includes Giovanni Boldini, the close runner-up to Outstrip in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf; Oklahoma City, second in Newmarket’s Autumn Stakes behind Kingston Hill, who won the Racing Post Trophy in his next start; and Michaelmas, a $525,000 weanling purchase at the 2011 Keeneland November Sale who was runner-up in last fall’s Killavullan Stakes at Leopardstown.
Of the 399 male nominees to the 2014 classics, 359 are colts, 30 are geldings and 10 are listed as ridglings.
Bob Baffert was second with 18 nominations, followed by Asmussen (13) and Lukas (12).
Leading owners, either alone or in partnership, are Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, who share ownership of 13 nominees. Their regular partner Derrick Smith owns 12 of the nominated horses, and was followed by Stonestreet Stables LLC with nine nominees.
WinStar Farm LLC leads all breeders with nine nominees, either alone or in partnerships. The Estate of Edward Evans is next with eight, followed by Darley’s seven nominees and six each for Brereton C. Jones and Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings LLC.
Of the 413 nominated 3-year-olds, 388 were bred in the United States, and Kentucky was the state of breeding for 302 of those. Florida produced 29 nominees, and was followed by Virginia (13), New York (12) and Pennsylvania (10).
Bernardini and Tapit each sired 16 nominees to rank as leading sires among early Triple Crown nominees. Distorted Humor, Giant’s Causeway and Unbridled’s Song tied at 10.
Link to Early Nominations
Past Performance Charts for Nominees, courtesy of Brisnet
Edited Churchilll Downs release with additional content by Dick Downey