Feb 2, 2013 2:56 PM
The early nomination period for the three races in the American Triple Crown has concluded with 369 3-year-old Thoroughbreds based in the United States and abroad eligible to bid for a rare sweep of the series of classic races that includes the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the $1 million Preakness (GI) and the $1 million Belmont Stakes (GI).
The roster of nominees is headed by Starlight Racing, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Shanghai Bobby, the 2-year-old champion of 2012 and winner of the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI) who suffered his first career setback in his 2013 debut in the recent Holy Bull Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream Park. Shanghai Bobby is trained by Todd Pletcher, who has won a pair of Triple Crown races and leads all trainers with 29 nominees to the 2013 series.
Pletcher, whose Triple Crown wins include the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver and the 2007 Belmont Stakes with the filly Rags to Riches, has a powerhouse team of nominees for the spring classics that also includes Black Rock Thoroughbreds LLP's Violence, winner of the CashCall Futurity (GI) at Hollywood Park and Belmont Park's Nashua (GIII); Repole Stable's Overanalyze, winner of the Remsen (GII) and Belmont Futurity (GII); Stonestreet Stables LLC's star filly Dreaming of Julia, winner of the Frizette (GI); and potential stars that include WinStar Farm LLC's Revolutionary, WinStar and Twin Creeks Racing Stable LLC's Delhomme and Let's Go Stable's Verrazano, who was an impressive winner in his lone start.
The 2013 Triple Crown series opens on Saturday, May 4 with the 139th running of the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The 138th Preakness, the 1 3/16-mile second jewel, is set for Saturday, May 18 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. The 145th running of the Belmont Stakes, its 1 ½-mile final leg, is scheduled for Saturday, June 8 at Belmont Park, in Elmont, N.Y.
This year's total of early nominees to the Triple Crown races is down from the 398 horses made eligible during the early phase in 2012. Twenty more horses were added to the 2012 roster during the Triple Crown's late nomination phase, which lifted the final total to 418.
The deadline for early nominations was Jan. 26 and required a fee of $600 for each nominated 3-year-old. The late nomination period, which requires the payment of a $6,000 fee with each nominee, is underway and will run through Saturday, March 23 at 11:59 p.m. (all times Eastern). Information is available at www.TheTripleCrown.com.
Other accomplished 2013 Triple Crown nominees include John Oxley's Uncaptured, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) and Iroquois (GIII) at Churchill Downs; Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa's Itsmyluckyday, who defeated Shanghai Bobby in the Holy Bull after winning the Gulfstream Park Derby in his previous outing; He's Had Enough, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile owned by Reddam Racing LLC and trained by Doug O'Neill, the team that sent I'll Have Another to victories in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness; Goldencents, the O'Neill-trained winner of the Delta Jackpot (GIII) and Sham (GIII) owned by a partnership that includes W C Racing, Dave Kenney and RAP Racing, a stable headed by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino; Bluegrass Hall LLC's Oxbow, winner of the Lecomte (GIII) at Fair Grounds for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who is tied with training legend Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons with a record 13 victories in Triple Crown events; and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, an eight-time winner of Triple Crown races, has a team of nominees headed by Gary and Mary West's Power Broker, winner of the Frontrunner (GI) at Santa Anita and potential stars that include the West-owned Flashback and Tabor, Magnier and Smith's War Academy.
Bluegrass Hall LLC and the Wests each nominated seven horses to the Triple Crown to lead in total nominations by owners, either alone or in partnership. Darley Stable was next with six nominees. Charles Fipke, Alex and John Lieblong, Oxley, Kaleem Shah Inc., West Point Thoroughbreds and WinStar Farm nominated five horses each.
Immediately behind Pletcher among trainers was Baffert, who trains 23 early nominees to the Triple Crown races. Ken McPeek and Nick Zito are next with 13 nominees, while Mark Casse and Lukas each nominated 11 3-year-olds.
The leading breeders of 2013 Triple Crown nominees, either alone or in partnership, are Darley and Edward P. Evans, each of whom bred seven of the Triple Crown-eligible horses. Close behind are Ken & Sarah Ramsey and William S. Farish with six nominees, and Diamond A. Racing Corp. and Fipke each bred five nominees.
Nine nominated horses are based outside of North America, including four that hail from the stable of Ireland's Dermot Weld, who saddled Go and Go to win 1990 Belmont Stakes. Irish training king Aidan O'Brien trains a pair of nominees.
Dreaming of Julia is joined by Spendthrift Farm's Beholder, winner of the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) and America's champion 2-year-old filly of 2012, among seven female nominees to the Triple Crown.
The overall total of 369 Triple Crown nominees includes 325 colts. Along with the seven fillies, the remaining nominees include 28 geldings and nine ridglings.
The United States was the birthplace of an overwhelming majority of nominated horses with 352 bred in the U.S. and 263 of those - 71.3 percent of that group - were born in Kentucky. Seventeen nominees were bred outside of U.S. borders, with Canada accounting for 11 of those.
The Kentucky Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975 and the horses that enter the starting gate for this year's running will be determined for the first time by points earned in the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" eligibility system. The field for the Preakness is limited to 14 starters, while the Belmont Stakes permits a maximum field of 16 horses.
A sweep of the three Triple Crown races - one of the most difficult feats in all of sports - has been accomplished on only 11 occasions. The roster of Triple Crown winners includes Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978).
It has been 34 years since the most recent Triple Crown sweep by Affirmed in 1978 - the longest stretch without a Triple Crown in the history of the series. The previous record was the 25-year gap between the 1948 Triple Crown earned by Citation and Secretariat's record-shattering three-race sweep in 1973.
The 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins by I'll Have Another made the son of Flower Alley the 51st horse to take two of the three Triple Crown races. But the Doug O'Neill-trained colt was denied his Triple Crown bid when he was withdrawn from consideration for the Belmont Stakes after he was injured in the days before that contest. Chadds Ford Stable's Union Rags, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, scored a narrow victory in the Belmont Stakes to conclude the 2012 Triple Crown series.
Horses that are not nominated in either the early or late nomination phases have a final opportunity to become eligible for Triple Crown competition through a supplemental nomination. That process involves the payment of a hefty fee, due at the time of entry for the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes, that makes the horse eligible to run in the remaining races of the Triple Crown series. A supplemental nomination made at the time of entry for the Kentucky Derby requires a fee of $200,000, and the fee drops $100,000 if paid prior to either the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes.