Headed by 2-year-old champion male Hansen, 397 horses were nominated to the Triple Crown series before the Jan. 21 early nomination deadline, representing a 9.1% increase over the 364 nominated during the early nominating period in 2011.
Brisnet is providing free online past performances of all the 2012 Triple Crown nominees in PDF format at http://www.brisnet.com/brisnet_promos/TC12noms.pdf.
An additional 13 horses added last year during the late nomination period brought the total number to 377.
The nomination makes a horse eligible to the three Triple Crown races, all grade I stakes restricted to 3-year-olds:
--138th running of the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. on Saturday, May 5;
-- 137th running of the $1 million Preakness, which will be run at 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. on Saturday, May 19;
--144th running of the $1 million Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles at New York’s Belmont Park on Saturday, June 9.
All three Triple Crown races will be televised by NBC Sports and are scheduled to be broadcast on radio by the Horse Racing Radio Network.
John Asher, vice president for communications at Churchill Downs, said officials with the three Triple Crown host tracks were surprised by the leap in Triple Crown nominations. He said it is likely a combination of a resurgent racing industry and increased interest in the Triple Crown series, buoyed by all three races being won last year by connections that were experiencing their first taste of classic success.
“We’re a little surprised and very gratified by the strong increase in nominations to the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown,” Asher said. “Our hope would be that the increase in nominations is a reflection of the continued allure of the spring classics, but also reflects improvement in the economy of both the racing economy and overall economic conditions. When considered with strong results in recent Thoroughbred sales, the growth in nominations to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown, our sport’s biggest events, would seem to be reason for optimism for our sport and the horse industry.
“The surge in interest in the Triple Crown races is good news for our industry,” Asher continued. “We look forward to an exciting and memorable Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown that will continue to build and sustain enthusiasm for those races throughout our industry and the general public.”
The cost to nominate before Jan. 21 was $600. A late nomination period that requires payment of a $6,000 nomination fee ends March 24.
For the first time, Churchill Downs has altered the conditions for the Derby and its filly counterpart, the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and will allow four also-eligibles for each race. If a horse or horses entered in either race is withdrawn from the time entries are taken until the official scratch time, the next horse on the also-eligible list will draw into the race.
The Kentucky Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975, and accumulated earnings in graded stakes races along the “Road to the Triple Crown” have determined the field for the race since 1986. The field for the Preakness is limited to 14 starters, while the Belmont Stakes permits a maximum field of 16 horses.
In addition to being voted champion 2-year-old male for 2011, Dr. Kendall Hansen and Sky Chai Racing’s undefeated Hansen also shared top weight on the Experimental Free Handicap with Union Rags at 126 pounds. Among other top-rated males on the Experimental released by The Jockey Club Feb. 2, only Majestic City, who was co-weighted at 119 pounds, was not among the 391 males nominated prior to the early deadline.
In addition to Hansen, the early nominees include Chadds Ford Stable’s Union Rags , who suffered his only setback in four races when second to Hansen in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), and Starlight Racing’s Algorithms , who burst onto the road to the Triple Crown with an impressive five-length victory over Hansen in the Holy Bull (gr. III).
Among the six fillies nominated to the 2012 Triple Crown, none were among the top six rated fillies on the Experimental, which was topped by champion 2-year-old filly My Miss Aurelia, weighted at 124 pounds.
The filly nominees are On Fire Baby (co-weighted at 117 on the Experimental), Reneesgotzip, Princess Arabella, Lady of Shamrock, Indian Magique, and Disposablepleasure.
Todd Pletcher, who was represented by his first Derby winner with Super Saver in 2010, tops the trainer’s list of early nominees with 32, followed by three-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert with 21.
Among owners, Ahmed Zayat’s Zayat Stables tops the list with 13 early nominees, followed by Robert V. LaPenta with 10. WinStar Farm and Team Valor, the respective owners of Derby winners Super Saver and Animal Kingdom , each have nominated four to this year’s classics.