02/24/2010 1:00AM

Nominated, but with no shot

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PHILADELPHIA - Now that the snow has started to disappear and basketball's regular season has hit the homestretch, I found myself in the mood to do my annual Triple Crown nominations duty. I went through each of the 366 nominations, from A Little Warm to Zulu Principle, and discovered that Todd Pletcher (with his 20 nominations) is as live as he has been in all those other years when he did not win the Kentucky Derby. I also discovered that Bob Baffert is about as live as in some of those years when he did win the Derby.

Now that we have gotten beyond the obvious, I have placed my findings into various categories. Some actually have meaning.

Unbeatens

I only counted those that have also won a stakes race. I found two - Caracortado and Conveyance.

California-bred gelding Caracortado could have been claimed for $40,000 when he won his maiden. Four wins later, including a 97 Beyer when he won the Robert Lewis, the price has gone up, way up.

San Rafael and Southwest winner Conveyance is 4 for 4 with a 99 Beyer on synthetic as a 2-year-old and a 97 in the Southwest.

Triple-digit Beyers

I found seven.

Fountain of Youth winner Eskenderaya got a 106 when he exploded in the stretch to win that race by 8 1/2 lengths.

Eightyfiveinafifty got a 105 when he won his maiden before getting a tour of the Aqueduct stable area while he was supposed to be dominating the Whirlaway.

Tempted to Tapit got a 100 when he won his maiden. Buddy's Saint got a 101 when he won the Nashua. A Little Warm got a 100 in winning the Spectacular Bid. Jackson Bend got a 100 when he won a stakes last October.

And the legendary Uh Oh Bango got a 102 last September when he won a stakes at Prairie Meadows. The colt was still solidly in the 90s when he finished second in stakes at Churchill and Delta Downs. He is working at Turf Paradise for his eagerly awaited 2010 debut.

Most optimistic

Well, just about any of the owners who nominated the 56 horses that have yet to race.

I noticed Jerry and Ann Moss had a couple. You know they are not starting until they are 4. Or maybe by December at Santa Anita when they are about to turn 4 and head off on unbeaten careers.

The Afleet Alex guys have Lights Out Lidge, named after Phillies closer Brad Lidge, who never blew a save in 2008 and threw the last pitch when the Phils won the city's first championship in a quarter-century. The colt is by Afleet Alex and working at Oaklawn Park. The Pennsylvania Derby has this Pa-bred's name all over it.

Then, there is Big Boy Billy. He won his maiden in his second start at Hawthorne and has a best Beyer of 61.

California Soldier has started eight times with two wins. His Best Beyer, in a $12,500 claiming race at Golden Gate Fields on Jan. 3, was a 69.

Least for the most

D. Wayne Lukas probably retired this trophy some years ago, but thankfully, he is still in there trying to add to his collection. He has an especially impressive group this year.

There are the three Lukas horses that have yet to start - Alcindor, a $1.15 million yearling by Unbridled's Song; Bold Victor, a $550,000 son of Vindication; and Game Break, a $350,000 son of El Corredor. No doubt, you will be hearing from them soon if they have not yet been accepted into the witness protection program.

By the way, Lew Alcindor was the superstar center at Power Memorial High School in New York and UCLA. His college teams went 88-2 and won three national championships. For those too young to remember, you know him as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA's all-time leading scorer.

By the way, many of those that Wayne has started have piled up quite impressive resumes.

Irish Emperor, a $625,000 son of Empire Maker, has earned $2,040 in his two starts. But he has improving Beyers. He went from a 61 to a 69 recently. Keeps making moves like that and he may win his maiden by Derby Day.

Lambeau Legend, a $1.2 million son of Storm Cat, has been beaten double digits in each of his three starts. But he has earned $2,160. Alas, his best Beyer of 58 in 2009 is not going to get it done. He is working steadily at Oaklawn for a 2010 debut that can't come soon enough.

Mesa Vista, a $500,000 son of Sky Mesa, has started seven times without winning. But he looked terrific in his 2010 debut at Oaklawn when he hung tough for third at 24-1 and got a career-best 67 Beyer. Looks like a logical Arkansas Derby candidate with those career earnings of $10,936.

There is always Moonlark, a $625,000 son of Gone West. The colt may not have won in three starts last year, but he did earn $10,698 and almost reached 70 on the Beyer scale.

And, finally, there is Wildcat Nation, a $400,000 son of Yes It's True. That the colt has been beaten by a combined 64 3/4 lengths since winning his maiden in August might be discouraging to some. Wayne, however, does not get discouraged. After all, the colt has earned $34,771.

Famous relatives

Brother Bird is a half-brother to Mine That Bird. He cost $485,000 at Timonium. He was third in his lone start last August at Saratoga. He earned a 64 Beyer and is working at Palm Meadows.

Lentenor is a full brother to Barbaro. This colt clearly has ability, but has not yet raced on dirt. In four starts, he has a win, two seconds, and a third. He just got an 88 Beyer in a grass allowance at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 23.

Derby winner

Will come from the barns of Baffert, Pletcher, one of the Dutrows, or John Sadler. Which last I checked accounts for about 15 horses. So, relax. It is still early.