Just one year after defying the three year trend of decreasing nominations for Triple Crown racing, the number of nominees for horses to run in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness and Belmont Stakes dropped again. In 2012 there were 398 nominations during the early period and this year that number is down to 369.
The decline can’t be blamed on trainer Todd Pletcher. Pletcher has entered 29 horses into the Triple Crown nominations and has already started to make quite a splash with Derby contenders such as Revolutionary, Violence, and two-year-old champion Shanghai Bobby.
Bob Baffert is next up with 23 nominees. Baffert has trained eight Triple Crown race winners in his illustrious career and is looking for more behind upstarts like Flashback, Power Broker, and Den’s Legacy. Other notable trainers with a big number of entries and looking for a Triple Crown race winner are D. Wayne Lukas, Mark Casse, and Nick Zito. Lukas’ Will Take Charge and Oxbow recently capped off a big weekend as they won the Smarty Jones and Lecomte Stakes, respectively, in the same week. Casse has one Derby prep win under his belt with Uncaptured and he also has high hopes for Dynamic Sky. Zito is looking for his first Kentucky Derby win since 1994 and has 13 nominees, including Gorgui and Almost English.
Last year’s Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O’Neill has eight nominees in the early period. His star colt is Goldencents, who has two prep season wins in the Sham Stakes and the Delta Downs Jackpot. Goldencents leads the early Kentucky Derby Championship standings with 24 points and is owned by a group that includes University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino. O’Neill is also training well thought of entrants such as He’s Had Enough and Know More, both owned by Paul Reddam. Reddam and O’Neill teamed up last year to take 2/3 of the Triple Crown behind I’ll Have Another and are hoping to repeat their success.
Even though the entries are down, there is still time for new contenders to emerge. The early period comes with a $600 fee for entry, but the late period has a fee of $6,000. In 2012, the late entry saw 20 more horses added and it’s likely that some new names will be on the board later in the 2014 season as well.