Bob Baffert is ahead of the pack again, leading all trainers with 35 horses nominated to the Triple Crown races.
The trainer of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah has nearly 10 percent of the 368 early nominations released by Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky, on Thursday.
Business is good after American Pharoah became the first horse in 37 years to sweep the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes: Baffert had 15 nominations last year.
Todd Pletcher was second among trainers with 28 nominations, and Chad Brown next with 12. The top three trainers have just over 20 percent of the nominations.
Zayat Stables, owners of American Pharoah, leads all owners with 15 nominations. Ahmed Zayat’s stable has several Triple Crown nominees with Baffert, including Jazzy Times and Justin Squared. A year ago, Zayat had nine nominations.
Nyquist, the undefeated 2-year-old champion and winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, is considered the early favorite for the Derby on May 7.
The 3-year-old colt is trained by Doug O’Neill and owned by J. Paul Reddam, who teamed to win the 2012 Derby and Preakness with I’ll Have Another.
Among Baffert’s top 3-year-olds are the 1-2 finishers in the Sham Stakes, Collected and Let’s Meet in Rio, and the 1-2 finishers in the Los Alamitos Futurity, Mor Spirit and Toews on Ice.
Three fillies were nominated: Flora Dora, Northwest Tale and Royal Obsession.
The number of nominations declined 14 percent from a year ago, and it’s the lowest number since 2011. The 368 horses represent 1.6 percent of the 2013 total foal crop of an estimated 23,500 thoroughbreds, about the same as last year.
The early nomination period closed Jan. 16, at a cost of $600 per horse. The late phase closes March 21 at a cost of $6,000 per horse. After that, there’s a $200,000 supplemental entry fee for the Derby.
In addition to Nyquist, other highly regarded 3-year-olds nominated include Breeders’ Futurity winner Brody’s Cause, Champagne winner Greenpointcrusader, Hopeful winner Ralis, Kentucky Jockey Club winner Airoforce, Belmont Futurity winner Annual Report, Remsen winner Mohaymen, Delta Jackpot winner Exaggerator and Swipe, already a four-time runner-up to Nyquist.
HELLO MRS. CLEAVER … AND MORE
Some names that struck our funny bone: Eddie Haskell, Emoji Man, Ifyousnoozeyoulose, Ima Monster, Matt King Coal, Southern Pharaoh (the correct spelling), Suddenbreakingnews, Swagger Jagger, Urban Bourbon and Wine Not.
A HORSE? OF COURSE
A horse? A person? A myth? A hockey player? A Derby winner? Try these: Algenon, Cupid, Eric the Trojan, Esposito, Fetisov, General Macarthur, Henry the King, I.M. Mighty, John Q. Public, King Kranz, Mac Daddy Mac, Marty Montana, Monte Man, Mr. Coker, Mr. Roary, Mr. Veeder, Nyquist, Richie the Bull, Stradivari, Urlacher.
Kaleem Shah sure likes the Bundesliga.
Thanks to the horse owner, we’re looking at another Triple Crown hopeful named for a soccer team. This time around, we’ve got Hoffenheim — a 3-year-old colt trained by Bob Baffert named for the team in the top German league.
In 2015, the Shah-Baffert duo had Dortmund, who won his first six races before finishing third in the Derby. Dortmund, the team, plays in the Bundesliga. The horse is still racing.
In 2014, it was Bayern for team Shah-Baffert. The horse missed the Derby, but ran third in the Preakness and then won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Shah named him for the team in the Bundesliga.
Uncle Mo, winner of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and early favorite for the 2011 Kentucky Derby before sidelined by illness, leads all sires with 19 3-year-olds nominated — his first crop of foals.
Among them: Little Mo, Mo for the Money, Mo Power, Mo Tom, The Big Mo, Uncle Guy, Uncle Jerry, Uncle Lino, Uncle Walter — and Nyquist (a leading Derby contender).
MILLION DOLLAR BABIES
Five of the nominated horses were purchased at 2014 Keeneland sales for $1 million or more:
— Air Vice Marshall, $2.2 million
— Mohaymen, $2.2 million
— Tour de Force, $1.35 million
— Adios Reality, $1.2 million
— Royal Obsession, $1.15 million
Of the 368 early nominations, 14 horses are based outside North America — nine in Ireland: Air Force Blue, Air Vice Marshall, General Macarthur and Hit It a Bomb (Aidan O’Brien, trainer); Ample Sufficiency, Flying Bullet, Foxtrot Charlie, True Solitaire and Zula Alpha (Dermot Weld, trainer).
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