02/07/2005 1:00AM

Crown attracts 358 - but not Lost in the Fog

Undefeated Lost in the Fog, leading the Sunshine Millions Dash, is not among the Triple Crown's early nominees.

A total of 358 3-year-olds, including champions Declan's Moon and Sweet Catomine, are the early nominees to this year's Triple Crown, Triple Crown Productions announced on Monday.

The total is down significantly from last year's 434 early nominees, but this year's crop was severely affected by the Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome that struck Kentucky breeders in the spring of 2001, when this crop would have been conceived.

It was originally announced that 357 had been nominated, but the colt Park Avenue Ball, who won last year's Belmont Futurity, had been overlooked.

Regardless, all of the top prospects for this year's Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, and Belmont Stakes are among the nominees, with one notable exception. The speedy Lost in the Fog, who is unbeaten in three starts, including the Sunshine Millions Dash at Gulfstream Park, was not nominated for the $600 fee that was due by Jan. 22. There is a second nomination deadline of March 26, but owners of horses nominated then must pay $6,000.

Greg Gilchrist, who trains Lost in the Fog, said he would consult with owner Harry Aleo to find out if he would put up the money by the second deadline. The first deadline fell one week before Lost in the Fog won the Sunshine Millions Dash.

"This whole thing has kind of boiled up on us," Gilchrist said Monday. "I need to talk to Mr. Aleo and find out how serious he is about [the Derby]."

This year's Derby is on May 7, and the purse has been doubled to $2 million. The Preakness, on May 21, and the Belmont, on June 11, are worth $1 million each. But if any horse can sweep all three races - a feat last accomplished by Affirmed in 1978, but which Smarty Jones came tantalizingly close to capturing last year - a $5 million bonus will be paid to the winning connections by Visa, which sponsors the Triple Crown.

The early Derby favorite is Declan's Moon, who won all four of his starts last year, including the Hollywood Futurity, to nail down the 2-year-old male championship. He is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the Santa Catalina Stakes at Santa Anita on March 5.

Sweet Catomine won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies to secure the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old filly. She has since won the Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita. Sweet Catomine is one of seven fillies nominated to this year's Triple Crown.

Todd Pletcher, last year's Eclipse Award-winning trainer, has 34 horses nominated to this year's Triple Crown, including such well-regarded prospects as Bandini, Harlington, and Proud Accolade.

Bobby Frankel is next among trainers with 16 nominees, including the unbeaten High Limit. Neither Frankel nor Pletcher has won the Kentucky Derby.

Nick Zito, who has won the Derby twice, has 14 nominees, and multiple Derby-winning trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas have 12 each.

There are 14 nominations from overseas, including six from Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing Inc., which was conspicuous by its absence of nominations one year ago. Overbrook Farm leads all owners with nine nominees.

A.P. Indy leads all sires with 16 of his offspring nominated.

Romancing the crown

The leading owners, trainers, and sires represented in the 2005 Triple Crown, by numbers of horses nominated:

Overbrook Farm9
Dogwood Stables7
Godolphin Racing6
J. McIngvale6
R. & B. Lewis6
M. Tabor & D. Smith6
T. Pletcher34
R. Frankel16
N. Zito14
B. Baffert12
D.W. Lukas12
J. Shirreffs9
K. McPeek8
D. Stewart8
K. McLaughlin7
N. Hines6
S. bin Suroor6
W. Currin5
R. Mandella5
C. McGaughey III5
R. Violette Jr.5
G. Weaver5
A.P. Indy16
Fusaichi Pegasus11
Storm Cat8
Giant's Causeway7
Maria's Mon7
Touch Gold6

- Source: Triple Crown Productions