02/08/2009 1:00AM

Champs top list of 401 Crown nominees


Led by champions Midshipman and Stardom Bound, a total of 401 3-year-olds have been nominated to this year's Triple Crown, it was announced shortly after midnight on Sunday by Triple Crown Productions.

There were 449 early nominations last year. The record is 450, set in 2007.

Midshipman won last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile to secure the Eclipse Award as champion male 2-year-old. Stardom Bound captured the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies to become the champion 2-year-old filly. They are among the many who are seeking to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. The 31-year drought is the longest since the Triple Crown was first won by Sir Barton in 1919.

The Triple Crown includes the Kentucky Derby on May 2 at Churchill Downs, the Preakness Stakes on May 16 at Pimlico Race Course, and the Belmont Stakes on June 6 at Belmont Park. The horses so far nominated had to do so by Jan. 24 for a fee of $600. There is a second late deadline on March 28, but the fee goes up to $6,000 then. Each year, there are usually about a dozen late nominees.

Two prominent names were missing from the list of early nominees - Donativum, the winner of the BC Juvenile Turf, and This Ones for Phil, who was credited with a Beyer Speed Figure of 116 for his win in the Sunshine Millions Dash.

Midshipman also won the Del Mar Futurity last year. He is is now in Dubai as part of Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing, which also nominated Vineyard Haven, last year's winner of the Champagne Stakes. Both horses were purchased privately last year. Godolphin nominated seven horses to the Triple Crown. Darley Stable, also owned by Sheikh Mohammed, nominated five additional runners.

Stardom Bound also won the Oak Leaf Stakes and Del Mar Debutante last year. She is one of four fillies nominated to this year's Triple Crown, along with Abound, Laragh, and Sky Diva. The last filly to win the Derby was Winning Colors in 1988, though the ill-fated Eight Belles finished second in last year's race. The last filly to win a Triple Crown race was Rags to Riches in the 2007 Belmont.

Larry Jones, the trainer of Eight Belles, and Rick Porter, that filly's owner, have nominated the highly regarded Old Fashioned as well as Friesan Fire, whom Porter's Fox Hill Farm owns in partnership with Vinery Stables.

A.P. Indy, the sire of Friesan Fire, and Unbridled's Song, the sire of Old Fashioned, have the most offspring nominated with 14 each. Medaglia d'Oro is next with 13.

Steve Asmussen, who won his first Triple Crown race with Curlin in the 2007 Preakness Stakes and was named the Eclipse Award-winning trainer of 2008, leads all trainers with 25 nominations. Todd Pletcher is next with 20, and Nick Zito, a two-time Derby winner, has 19 nominees.

Ahmed Zayat, whose Zayat Stables owns CashCall Futurity winner Pioneerof the Nile, leads all owners with 22 nominations.

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