A new era is about to begin for Triple Crown Productions, with a first-time sponsor and new name for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), a new television contract, a significant increase in nominations from 2005, and a record number of nominations from trainer Todd Pletcher.
The Run for the Roses, to be held May 6, will now be called the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands and will kick off what promises to be an action-packed 2006 Triple Crown, which drew 427 early nominations, up from 358 in 2005, and the fourth highest since the creation of Triple Crown Productions in 1985. Late-nominations, at a cost of $6,000 per horse, close Saturday, March 25.
"This year's early figures show emphatically the continued viability of racing's Triple Crown," said Edward P. Seigenfeld, executive vice president of Triple Crown Productions. "The response from horsemen on both sides of the Atlantic once again proves that the dream wrapped up in this most difficult of all sporting accomplishments never fades."
In addition to the Derby's new sponsor and official name, there will be a change in television coverage, with the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) returning to ABC. The Derby and Preakness (gr. I) will continue to be shown on NBC.
Pletcher, who set a record in 2004 with 35 nominations, has 38 nominated this year, headed by stakes horses Bluegrass Cat, High Cotton, Half Ours, Saint Augustus, and My Golden Song. The nation's leading trainer in 2005 – when he set a new earnings record – is still looking for his first winner in a Triple Crown race. Pletcher is followed by Richard Mandella and Nick Zito with 15 nominations, Bob Baffert with 14, and Steve Asmussen and D. Wayne Lukas with 13. Last year, Zito nominated 14 and sent five of them to the Derby for five different owners.
Many of the horses nominated by Baffert and Lukas are owned by Robert and Beverly Lewis, who topped all owners with 10 nominations. Right behind with nine are Michael Tabor (alone and in partnership with Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier) and West Point Thoroughbreds. Last year, Tabor and partners started two horses in the Derby – Bandini, trained by Pletcher, and Spanish Chestnut, trained by Patrick Biancone.
The list includes 15 horses trained in Europe and the Middle East, headed by the five nominated by Godolphin Racing, three by Irish trainer Aidan O'Brien, and two from fellow Irishman Dermot Weld, who captured the 1990 Belmont Stakes with Go and Go.
Among the top 2-year-old performers nominated are champion colt Stevie Wonderboy, and major stakes winners Brother Derek, Private Vow, Bluegrass Cat, and Sorcerer's Stone. Stevie Wonderboy and Brother Derek have already clashed this year, with Brother Derek coming out on top in the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II).
The popularity of Giant's Causeway
as a stallion is reflected in the nominations. The European champion is represented by 17 horses, followed by A.P. Indy
, Saint Ballado, and Storm Cat
The only two fillies nominated are 2-year-old champ and Alberto V05 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner Folklore, owned by the Lewises, and Juvenile Fillies runner-up Wild Fit.
Searchable list of 2006 Triple Crown Nominations