01/28/2016 12:10PM

Nyquist among 368 early Triple Crown nominees

Barbara D. Livingston
Nyquist will try to give the owner-trainer-jockey combination of Paul Reddam, Doug O'Neill and Mario Gutierrez a second Kentucky Derby win.

Led by Eclipse Award winner Nyquist as well as a pair of prominent prospects – Greenpointcrusader and Mohaymen – who are scheduled to race Saturday in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park, a total of 368 3-year-olds are early nominees to this year’s Triple Crown, Churchill Downs announced Thursday.

One highly regarded horse who was not nominated was Songbird, the champion 2-year-old filly of last year, but that was expected because trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has repeatedly said she is not a candidate for the May 7 Kentucky Derby and will instead have the May 6 Kentucky Oaks as her main goal this spring.

The number of early nominations is a significant decline from last year, when 429 horses were nominated at the early stage. It is the fewest since 2011, when 364 horses were early nominees. The record number of early nominees is 450 in 2007, but the foal crop of 2004 – which produced the 3-year-olds of 2007 – was significantly larger (37,948) compared with the estimated 23,500 foals born in 2013, which produced this crop. By percentage of nominees to foals, this year’s rate (1.56 percent) is higher than in 2007 (1.18 percent) and is the third-best percentage since 1986, when the Triple Crown races were first brought together under a single nomination. Prior to that, horses were nominated separately to the three races.

:: Triple Crown: Complete list of nominees

Last year, American Pharoah became only the 12th horse to sweep the Triple Crown and the first since Affirmed in 1978. The Triple Crown consists of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs, the Preakness at Pimlico on May 21, and the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park on June 11. All are televised by NBC Sports. The Derby purse is $2 million, with the Preakness and Belmont worth $1.5 million each, for a total prize package of $5 million in the three races.

All those announced as nominees Thursday were made eligible through a payment of $600 due Jan. 16. For those not yet nominated, there is a second deadline March 21, though the cost increases to $6,000. Last year, there were nine late nominees, for a total of 438 total nominations.

Horses also can be supplemented to each of the Triple Crown races, beginning with a $200,000 payment prior to the Derby, which would be due on entry day, May 4, and would make a horse eligible to all three Triple Crown races.

Nyquist won all five of his starts last year, including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Keeneland. He is owned by Paul Reddam, trained by Doug O’Neill, and his regular rider is Mario Gutierrez, all of whom teamed to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in 2012 with I’ll Have Another.

Greenpointcrusader scored the biggest win of his career in the Champagne Stakes. He was seventh in the BC Juvenile in his last start.

Mohaymen has won all three of his starts, including the Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct.

Other prominent nominees include Hit It a Bomb, the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf; Brody’s Cause, Mor Spirit, and Ralis, all of whom won Grade 1 races at age 2; and Swipe, second to Nyquist in three Grade 1 races last year, including the BC Juvenile.

A mere three fillies – Flora Dora, Northwest Tale, and Royal Obsession – were nominated to the Triple Crown. There were 11 fillies nominated last year and 14 in 2014.

Bob Baffert, who trained American Pharoah and this year is represented by Mor Spirit, led all trainers with 35 nominees, toppling Todd Pletcher from his usual perch atop the nomination list. Pletcher is second with 28. He had 34 early nominees last year and a record 42 in 2014.

Chad Brown has 12 nominees. Mark Casse, the trainer of the highly regarded Airoforce, has 11.

The Zayat Stables of Ahmed Zayat, which bred and owned American Pharoah, leads all owners with 15 early nominees. Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm is next with 11.

Charles Fipke leads all breeders with 11 nominees. Calumet and Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs are next with eight each.

Uncle Mo leads all sires with 19 nominees from his first crop. Tapit is next with 16 – including Ziconic, the unraced son of the great mare Zenyatta – followed by Bernardini with 13.

Eight runners were bred outside the United States or Canada. There are 14 nominated runners currently based outside North America, including the Japanese-based runner Lani. Dermot Weld leads all overseas trainers with five nominees, followed by Aidan O’Brien, the trainer of Hit It a Bomb, with four.