Todd Pletcher sets sites on Florida Derby.

Todd Pletcher sets sites on Florida Derby.

Barbara Livingston

Pletcher Leads Early Noms to Florida Derby

Todd Pletcher, who two weeks ago set a North American record for earnings in a year by a trainer, submitted the names of 17 horses for early-bird nomination to the April 1 Florida Derby (gr. I) at Gulfstream Park.

WinStar Farm's Bluegrass Cat, winner of the Remsen (gr. II) and Nashua (gr. III) stakes this fall, is among the Pletcher nominees.

The $1 million event is one of the few prizes to elude the 38-year-old trainer. On Nov. 24 he went past Bobby Frankel's record of $19,147,129 earned in a year. Pletcher has a second and a pair of third-place finishes from seven Florida Derby starters since 2001.

There were 136 early-bird nominations, including First Samurai, one of the nation's leading 2-year-olds of 2005. First Samurai is the only nominee from the barn of trainer Frank Brothers.

Steve Asmussen is second to Pletcher in number of nominees with eight.

Live Oak Plantation and trainer Nick Zito, the connections behind High Fly, last year's Florida Derby winner, are represented on the list by Giant Basil and Hesanoldsalt.

Darley Stud (with seven nominees) and Dogwood Stable, Marylou Whitney, Buckram Oak and Puglisi Stable & Steve Klesaris (five each) lead the owners.

Longtime horseman Allen Jerkens is on the list with one prospect, Hobeau Farm's Saint Daimon. Jerkens has been in the race twice before, but never with a horse owned by Hobeau, his longtime client and the owner most closely associated with some of Jerkens' greatest moments on the racetrack.

Supplementary nominations to the Florida Derby may be made at time of entry, March 29.

The complete list of early-bird nominees can be found on the Web site.