A record number of 439 three-year-old horses have been nominated to the 2001 Visa Triple Crown and the $5 million Visa Triple Crown Challenge during the recently completed early nomination period for the world's most prestigious trio of horse racing classics.The overall nomination number outdistanced by more than a furlong the previous record of 422 set in 1986, the first year of the common nomination process under the auspices of Triple Crown Productions, headquartered at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Helping to push the nomination field to a new standard was the record number of nominations from Europe -- 53-- far surpassing last year's record total of 24. The Visa Triple Crown Challenge, which offers a $5 million bonus to any owner whose horse wins the three races, starts with the 127th running of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs. That will be followed two weeks later on May 19 by the 126th Preakness Stakes, at 1 3/16 miles over the Pimlico Race Course oval in Baltimore, Md., and will be concluded in the 133rd Belmont Stakes on June 9 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.Leading the overseas brigade and posting the top figures among owners overall were Godolphin Racing of Dubai's ruling Maktoum family with 20 nominations, Michael Tabor with 12 from overseas and 15 overall, and Mrs. John Magnier with nine.The early nomination period, at $600 per nomination, ended January 13. The late nomination period, at $6,000 per horse, closes on March 31."We are just ecstatic over these records and the enthusiasm of our European Thoroughbred neighbors," said Edward P. Seigenfeld, executive vice president of Triple Crown Productions, based at Churchill Downs.In what has become almost an annual event, D. Wayne Lukas once again holds the top number among trainers of nominees for the three-race series at 21.However, this year he has to share the top rung with Irish trainer Aidan P. O'Brien, who also has 21 nominees. While Lukas' number comes through a combination of several owners, O'Brien's is tied to two Irish owners, Michael Tabor and Mrs. John Magnier, who in the past have been frequent partners in horses. O'Brien logged 12 Visa Triple Crown prospects for Tabor and nine for Mrs. Magnier. Ironically, two of Lukas' prospects are owned by Tabor, for whom he trained 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch.Tops among the Lukas stable of owners is Padua Stable, with six nominations, and Robert and Beverly Lewis, Overbrook Farm and The Thoroughbred Corp., each with three.Following Lukas and O'Brien in the trainer category are Saeed bin Suroor, who trains the 20 Godolphin prospects; Todd A. Pletcher, a former Lukas disciple, with 16; W. Elliott Walden, who conditioned 1998 Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop, with 11; Bob Baffert, two-time Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner with Silver Charm and Real Quiet in 1997 and '98, with 10; and Dermot K. Weld, winner of the 1990 Belmont Stakes with Go and Go, who trains nine nominees.
Following the Big Three owners - Godolphin, Tabor and Mrs. Magnier - are Eugene and Laura Melnyk, Robert M. Perez and Team Valor, all with seven nominees; Padua Stable, Frank H. Stronach and The Thoroughbred Corp. with six each; and Daniel Borislow, Buckram Oak Farm and W.S. Farish (singly and in partnership), all with five.Among the nominees are 11 of the 14 who ran in last November's $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs, including the top four finishers -- Stronach's Macho Uno, The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Point Given, Godolphin Racing's Street Cry, and Harold Queen's Burning Roma. Also nominated from that field: Turnberry Isle (6th in the race), City Zip (7th), Scorpion (9th), Dollar Bill (10th), Noverre (11th), Trailthefox (13th) and A P Valentine (14th).Eight fillies were nominated in the early sign-up period. Included among them are Platinum Tiara and She's a Devil Due, who finished second and third, respectively, in the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.In the sire category, 1992 Belmont Stakes winner and Horse of the Year A.P. Indy is far and away the standout with 17 progeny nominated to the Visa Triple Crown. Next is Storm Cat, North America's leading sire by earnings for the second straight year in 2000, who is the sire of 12 nominees. He's followed by 1990 Kentucky Derby victor Unbridled, with nine; Hennessy, Mr. Prospector and Mt. Livermore, with eight each; and Broad Brush and Deputy Minister, with seven apiece.
Triple Crown Nominees (in PDF format. To view PDF files, you must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer. You can download your free copy of Acrobat at http://www.adobe.com/prodindex/acrobat/readstep.html.