Led by a record 42 nominees from Todd Pletcher's barn, 413 3-year-olds were nominated to the 2014 Triple Crown series during the early nomination period, which closed Jan. 25.
The list of early nominations, which cost $600 per horse, was released Feb. 1 and heralds the official start of the Triple Crown season. The 2014 late nomination period, which requires a payment of $6,000 for each nominated 3-year-old, opened Sunday, Jan. 26, and continues through Saturday, March 22.
The 2014 Triple Crown series launches Saturday, May 3 with the 140th running of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The 139th Preakness, at 1 3/16 miles, is set for Saturday, May 17 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. The 146th running of the Belmont Stakes, the 1 1/2-mile final leg, is scheduled for Saturday, June 7 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.
Early nominations include unbeaten champion Shared Belief and stakes winners Honor Code and Cairo Prince top nominees.
The number of early nominations represents an 11.9% increase from last year's 369 early nominations and is the highest since 2008, when 449 horses were made eligible for the series during the early nomination phase. Eleven horses were nominated during the late phase that year to bring the overall total to 412. There were 398 early nominees that year and 20 were added during the late nomination period.
The number of horses made eligible for the Triple Crown by Pletcher, who has three victories in the series to his credit, comprises 10.2% of the overall early nomination total. It is easily the highest total for an individual trainer since the Triple Crown host tracks adopted a joint nominating process in 1986. Pletcher set the previous record for nominations by a trainer when he made 32 horses Triple Crown-eligible in 2012.
Among the Pletcher nominees are Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Havana, who won the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont and experienced his only setback in three races in a runner-up finish to the now-retired New Year's Day in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I); Ken and Sarah Ramsey's We Miss Artie, winner of the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I); and a collection of promising recent winners that includes WinStar Farm's Commissioner, WinStar Farm and Twin Creeks Racing's Constitution, Alto Racing's Anchor Down, Let's Go Stable's Harpoon, Stonestreet Stable's Hartford and Magnier, Tabor and Smith's Matterhorn.
Pletcher also nominated a pair of stakes-winning fillies to the Triple Crown in Repole Stable's Stopchargingmaria, winner the Demoiselle (gr. II), and Glencrest Farm's unbeaten Onlyforyou, who took the Forward Gal (gr. II) on Jan. 25.
Along with the pair of stakes-winning fillies nominated by Pletcher, the roster of Triple Crown nominees includes 12 other females.
Leading owners, either alone or in partnership, were Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, who shared 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 led all breeders with nine nominees, either alone or in partnerships. The Estate of Edward Evans was 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 horses. Florida produced 29 nominees, and was followed by Virginia (13), New York (12) and Pennsylvania (10). Canada produced 12 of the 15 horses bred in international locals. Nine were bred in Ireland.
Bernardini , winner of the 2006 Preakness, 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.
The purses for the 2014 renewals of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes will be the richest in history. The Maryland Jockey Club and the New York Racing Association increased the purses for their respective Triple Crown races by $500,000. The boost to the Preakness purse is the first since an increase to $1 million-guaranteed in 1998, and the Belmont Stakes purse rose to the $1 million level that same year. The Kentucky Derby purse climbed to $1 million guaranteed in 1996, and Churchill Downs raised it to its current level in 2005.
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 by points earned in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" eligibility system, which debuted in 2013. If more than the maximum field of 20 horses is entered in the race, up to four "also eligible" entrants will be permitted. If one or more starters are scratched prior to 9 a.m. (Eastern) on Friday, May 2, also-eligible horse with the highest preference in the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" system will be allowed to replace the scratched horse or horses in the starting gate.
The Preakness field is limited to 14 starters and the Belmont Stakes allows a maximum of 16 horses.
Three-year-olds that are not nominated for the Triple Crown during its early or late nomination phases have a final opportunity to become eligible to compete in one or all of the races through the payment of a supplemental nomination fee. Due at the time of entry for either the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes, the supplemental fee process makes a horse eligible for the remainder of the Triple Crown series. A supplemental nomination at the time of entry to the Kentucky Derby requires payment of $200,000.
The fee is $150,000 if paid prior to the Preakness or $75,000 at time of entry to the Belmont Stakes.
Churchill Downs adjusted its supplemental nomination process this year to allow those nominations made prior to the Kentucky Derby to be treated the same as original nominees. If a supplemental nominee has collected sufficient points to qualify for the Derby field, that horse would be allowed to start over original nominees that possess lesser qualifications. Under its previous policy, Churchill Downs gave preference to original nominees to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown over supplemental nominees.