02/03/2008 1:00AM

Triple Crown draws 448 nominations


Last year, Street Sense became the first horse to win the Kentucky Derby after a victory in the previous year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile. War Pass will attempt to follow in his footsteps this year, and on Saturday it was announced that War Pass is one of 448 3-year-olds nominated to this year's Triple Crown.

The 448 nominations fell just two shy of equaling the record of 450 set last year, a crop that produced Triple Crown race wins by Street Sense in the Derby, Curlin in the Preakness Stakes, and the filly Rags to Riches in the Belmont Stakes. No horse has swept the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978. That drought is the longest since the Triple Crown was first won by Sir Barton in 1919.

This year's was announced on Saturday by Triple Crown Productions, which solicits nominations for the 134th Derby on May 3, the 133rd Preakness on May 17, and the 140th Belmont on June 7. The 448 who were nominated did so for $600 by a Jan. 19 deadline. There is a second deadline for late nominees on March 29, but the fee then rises to $6,000.

War Pass won all four of his starts last year for trainer Nick Zito, including the BC Juvenile and the Champagne. He is training in Florida to prepare for his 3-year-old debut, which is expected to come this month.

Pyro, who was second to War Pass in the BC Juvenile and the Champagne, is also nominated. He is expected to make his 3-year-old debut this coming Saturday in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. Pyro is trained by Steve Asmussen, who trains Curlin.

Rags to Riches was the first filly to win the Belmont in 102 years. Only three fillies have won the Derby, the last being Winning Colors in 1988. This year, two fillies were nominated to the Triple Crown - Country Star, the winner of the Hollywood Starlet and Alcibiades Stakes, and Mushka, the winner of the Demoiselle Stakes. Both fillies are sired by Empire Maker, the winner of the 2003 Belmont.

Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Rags to Riches, leads trainers with 31 nominees, with Zito second at 19. Among foreign trainers, Ireland's Aidan O'Brien leads with seven nominees. Among owners, Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables leads with 11 nominees, one more than Michael Tabor. Distorted Humor leads among sires with 13 of his offspring nominated. Tale of a Cat and Mineshaft are next with 11 each.