(Edited press release)
Headed by Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) winner and Eclipse Award champion 2-year-old War Pass, 448 horses were nominated to the 2008 Triple Crown during the early nomination period for the three classics. That figure ranks second behind 2007’s record 450 early nominations.
The Triple Crown, restricted to 3-year-olds, consists of the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands at 1 1/4 miles at Churchill Downs on May 3, the 133rd Preakness Stakes at 1 3/16 miles at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., on May 17, and the 140th running of the Belmont Stakes at 1 1/2 miles at New York’s Belmont Park will close out the Triple on June 7. All three are grade I classics.
No horse has won the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. In the interim, 10 others have stood at the threshold of history by winning the Derby and Preakness only to be denied in the Belmont Stakes, known as the “Test of the Champion.”
The 448 nominations, at $600 each to make a nominee eligible to all three races, were gathered by the early deadline of Saturday, Jan. 19. A period for late nominations, at $6,000 apiece, closes Saturday, March 29. In addition, a horse may be supplemented to the three races by payment of $200,000 prior to the Kentucky Derby, or for entry to the Preakness or Belmont Stakes only by a payment of $100,000 to those racing associations prior to those races.
The purse for the Kentucky Derby is $2 million, and the purses for the other two are $1 million each. War Pass, owned by Robert V. LaPenta and trained by two-time Kentucky Derby winner Nick Zito, heads the list of 446 males. Two fillies also have been nominated, filling out the final figure.
Included among the males are 10 of the 11 starters from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, back to challenge War Pass at the classic distance. Runner-up Pyro and third-place finisher Kodiak Kowboy, both trained by Steven Asmussen, head the list of challengers.
The top filly nominated is Country Star, winner of the Starlet Stakes (gr. I) at Hollywood Park in December, and weighted second to Eclipse Award winner Indian Blessing on the Experimental Handicap for females.
“We are pleased once again with the spectacular response from horsemen from around the world,” said Edward P. Seigenfeld, executive vice president of Triple Crown Productions in Louisville. “We are hopeful each year that there will be broad participation in the search for the next Triple Crown winner, and our hopes have been rewarded once again by the remarkable enthusiasm for these great moments in the sport of horse racing.”
Nominations from overseas totaled 20 this year, led by trainer Aidan O’Brien with seven nominees. Second behind him is Dermot Weld with five, followed by Saeed bin Suroor with three.
Heading the owners’ list for the second straight year is Zayat Stables, with 11 nominations, followed closely by Michael Tabor, represented by 10 nominations, all in partnerships with Derrick Smith, John Magnier, and Mrs. John Magnier. Mrs. Magnier’s participation with Tabor puts her on the list with seven nominees, equaling the number for West Point Thoroughbreds and WinStar Farm. Listed with six nominees are Dogwood Stable, Robert V. LaPenta, and Stonerside Stable. B. Wayne Hughes, Ireland’s Moyglare Stud, and Smith — with five nominations each — round out the top five on the owners’ list.
For the fifth straight year, horses trained by Todd Pletcher, who just won his fourth straight Eclipse Award as America’s top trainer, lead all nominators with 31, far and away ahead of Zito’s second highest 19. Third among trainer nominators are Richard Mandella’s 14, followed by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas and Barclay Tagg, each with 13 nominations. Rounding out the top tier are Asmussen and Kenneth McPeek with 12 each, and three-time Kentucky Derby victor Bob Baffert and William Mott, with 10 each.
Some relative newcomers made their marks on this year’s list of sires of nominees, with Distorted Humor bounding to the lead with 13 progeny of 2005 nominated. Tale of the Cat and Mineshaft run a close second with 11 nominees each. Perennial top sire A.P. Indy, who led the list in four of the past five years, is a solid third this year with 10, followed by Tiznow with nine and the trio of Grand Slam, Maria’s Mon, and Pulpit who round out the top five with eight nominees each.
(Edited press release)