Lookin At Lucky and She Be Wild, the champion 2-year-old male and female, respectively, of 2009, top the list of 366 early nominees to the 2010 Triple Crown races.
The number of nominations during the early nominating period, which closed Jan. 16 at $600 per horse, was down 8.7% from the 401 early nominations last year. The record 450 early nominations was set in 2007. In 2009, there were an additional 11 horses nominated during the late nomination period. This year’s late nomination deadline, which requires a $6,000 fee, is March 27.
Each nominee is eligible for all three legs of the Triple Crown, which kicks off with the May 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs. The second leg, the Preakness Stakes (gr. I), will be run May 15 at Maryland’s Pimlico Race Course and the series concludes with the June 5 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) at New York’s Belmont Park.
Churchill Downs spokesman John Asher said there are a number of reasons why the early nomination total is down from last year, including the recent decline in number of foals born each year and the economy, especially the downturns within the horse industry.
“Fewer foals are hitting the ground, so it stands to reason that there would be an accompanying decline in the number of horses that display Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown potential,” Asher said. “It’s also logical to assume the challenging business conditions have prompted many owners to tighten their belts in their racing operations and they might not take a chance on cutting that $600 check for the early nomination fee for a 3-year-old that they consider a longshot to make the series.”
Asher added that some owners might have cut back on the number of 3-year-olds they nominate to the series. “For very small stables, that $600 fee could cover other expenses and it’s possible that some owners who might have nominated on a whim in the past might have pulled back during the early phase this time.”
“Our nomination total is down a bit, but the 366 horses on the roster of nominees represent as deep a field of quality prospects as we’ve seen over the years,” said Churchill senior vice president of racing Donnie Richardson in a release from the track.
In addition to the Eclipse Award-winning juvenile male and female of 2009, the early nominees include every runner, except Irish-bred Alfred Noble, from last year’s Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I). Vale of York, who defeated Lookin At Lucky in the 13-horse Juvenile field, is one of 17 overseas nominees and one of eight nominated from Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Stable.
The eight total fillies nominated also include multiple grade I winner Blind Luck, who was third in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) won by She Be Wild.
With 20 nominations, Todd Pletcher tops the list trainers of early nominees, followed by D. Wayne Lukas with 19. Chip Woolley, who upset the 2009 Derby with Mine That Bird, is not listed as the trainer of any early TC nominees. Thoroughbred Racing Legends, the partnership that retains Hall of Famers Lukas, Nick Zito, and Bob Baffert as its trainers, leads the owners’ list with 12 nominees. WinStar Farms is second with 10. Among sires of early nominees, the list is topped by Distorted Humor and Tiznow, with 10 each.