Led by Eclipse Award winners Lookin At Lucky and She Be Wild, a total of 366 horses have been made early nominees to the three Triple Crown races, it was announced late Saturday night by the Triple Crown racetracks, Churchill Downs, Pimlico, and Belmont Park.
All those 3-year-olds were made eligible for a $600 nomination fee due on Jan. 16. Horses can still be nominated, but for $6,000, at a second deadline on March 27. There are usually about a dozen horses nominated at the second deadline.
Regardless, the number of nominations will be down from recent years, reflecting the economic realities of the sport today. From 2001 through last year, more than 400 horses were nominated at the early deadline every year except for 2005, when 358 were early nominees from a crop that was affected by Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome in Kentucky.
The Triple Crown nominations were put under a common form in 1986. Since that time, the early nominees have ranged from a high of 450 in 2007 to a low of 315 in 1990. A company called Triple Crown Productions administered the common forms through last year, and though that company has been disbanded, the racing departments of the three tracks continue to join forces to gather the nominations for the Triple Crown, according to Darren Rogers, a publicist for Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby.
"Our nomination total is down a bit, but the 366 horses on the roster of nominees represent as deep a field of quality prospects as we've seen over the years," Donnie Richardson, the senior vice president of racing for Churchill Downs, said in a statement.
This year's Triple Crown consists of the Derby on May 1, the Preakness at Pimlico on May 15, and the Belmont Stakes in New York on June 5. No horse has swept all three races since Affirmed in 1978.
Lookin At Lucky was the champion 2-year-old male of last year, when his wins included the CashCall Futurity. He is not scheduled to race again until March.
Vale of York, who sent Lookin At Lucky to his lone loss of 2009 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is also among the Triple Crown nominees. He is one of eight nominees from Dubai-based Godolphin Racing, and one of 17 foreign-based horses nominated to the Triple Crown.
She Be Wild, the champion 2-year-old filly last year when she captured the BC Juvenile Fillies, is one of eight fillies nominated to the Triple Crown. Another filly nominated is Blind Luck, whose scheduled 3-year-old debut on Saturday in the Las Virgenes Stakes was washed out when racing was canceled at Santa Anita.
Todd Pletcher, seeking his first Derby victory after finishing second twice, leads all trainers with 20 nominations. D. Wayne Lukas, who has won a record-equaling 13 Triple Crown races, is next with 19 nominees. Bob Baffert, the trainer of Lookin At Lucky, has 13 nominees.
The Thoroughbred Legends partnership leads all owners with 12 nominees. WinStar Farm, which has such well-regarded runners as American Lion, Drosselmeyer, Rule, and Super Saver, is next with 10.
Distorted Humor and Tiznow lead all sires with 10 nominees each. Tiznow is the sire of American Lion and Tiz Chrome, both of whom had their scheduled 2010 debut in the Robert Lewis Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita postponed by wet weather.