LOUISVILLE, KY – e Five Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables’ Good Magic, the champion 2-year-old male of 2017 and winner of the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, heads an international roster of 360 3-year-olds eligible to compete in the 2018 races of the coveted American Triple Crown: the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the $1.5 million Preakness, and the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.
The Chad Brown-trained Good Magic, a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and the Eclipse Award winner as America’s champion juvenile of 2017, is joined by two very accomplished stars: Ruis Racing’s Bolt d’Oro, whose only blemish in four 2017 races was his third-place run behind the champion in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Solomini, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who teamed in 2015 to send American Pharoah to the first Triple Crown sweep since 1978. One of Solomini’s three losses was a disqualification from first to third in December’s Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity.
The 2018 Triple Crown will open Saturday, May 5, with the 144th running of the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville. The 143rd Preakness, the 1 3/16-mile second jewel, is set for Saturday, May 18, at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. The 150th running of the Belmont Stakes, the series’ 1 1/2-mile final leg, is scheduled for Saturday, June 9, at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY.
Early nominations to the 2018 Triple Crown closed on January 20. Each nomination was accompanied by payment of a $600 fee to make the individual horse eligible to compete in any or all of the Triple Crown contests. A late nomination period, which requires a payment of $6,000 for each nominated 3-year-old, is now underway and will continue through Monday, March 19.
Last year’s early phase of Triple Crown nominations attracted 419 horses. An additional six thoroughbreds were made eligible during the late nomination period to raise the overall total to 425.
American Pharoah’s 2015 trifecta was only the 12th since Sir Barton in 1919 became the first of a dozen 3-year-olds that have won all three races in a single year. The roster of Triple Crown-winning greats is completed by Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), and Affirmed (1978).
Other accomplished young stars nominated to pursue the 2018 Triple Crown include Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman’s McKinzie, an unbeaten Baffert-trained son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense whose wins include a victory via the disqualification of Solomini in the Los Alamitos Futurity and a triumph in the Grade 3 Sham at Santa Anita; Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Mrs. John Magnier’s Mendelssohn, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Del Mar for international training superstar Aidan O’Brien; Godolphin Racing’s Enticed, winner of the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin; Robert V. LaPenta’s Catholic Boy, victorious in Aqueduct’s Grade 2 Remsen while debuting on dirt for trainer Jonathan Thomas; Mr. Amore Stable’s homebred Firenze Fire, winner of the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park for trainer Jason Servis; Albaugh Family Stables’ Free Drop Billy, the Dale Romans-trained winner of Keeneland’s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity; the Steve Asmussen-trained Copper Bullet, winner of the Grade 2 Saratoga Special for owners Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing; and Robert C. Baker and William L. Mack’s Sporting Chance, winner of Saratoga’s Grade 1 Hopeful for racing legend D. Wayne Lukas, the 82-year-old Hall of Fame trainer who has saddled a record 14 winners of Triple Crown races.
Following American Pharoah’s year, each of the past six Triple Crown races has had a different winner. Always Dreaming opened the 2017 series with victory in the Kentucky Derby, but the Preakness was won by Cloud Computing, a colt that had not competed in the opening Triple Crown jewel. Last year’s series was completed with a victory by Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes.
Both Always Dreaming and Tapwrit were trained by Todd Pletcher, who became the first conditioner to earn Triple Crown wins with different horses in a calendar year since Lukas achieved the feat in back-to-back seasons in 1995 and 1996. Cloud Computing was Brown’s first Triple Crown event winner, helping the trainer to a second consecutive Eclipse Award in 2017 as America’s top trainer. WinStar Farm was the most recent owner to earn Triple Crown triumphs in the same year with different horses when it won the 2010 Kentucky Derby with Super Saver and took the Belmont Stakes with Drosselmeyer five weeks later.
After winning two Triple Crown events in 2017, Pletcher led all trainers by making 37 horses Triple Crown-eligible during this year’s early nomination phase. Pletcher, honored seven times with the Eclipse Award as America’s top trainer, now has five wins in U.S. classics that include a pair of Kentucky Derby triumphs and Belmont Stakes victories. Baffert, who has a total of 12 Triple Crown race wins, was next with 32 nominations. Hall of Famer Asmussen nominated 17 horses and was followed by Romans (11) and Mark Casse (10). O’Brien led international trainers with six nominations, headed by Mendelssohn and US Navy Flag, winner of the Group 1 Dewhurst at Britain’s Newmarket.
Zayat Stables led all owners with 12 Triple Crown nominees and edged WinStar Farm by one for the top spot in that tightly-bunched category. Four owners tied at 10 nominations: China Horse Club International; Charles E. Fipke; Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith; and West Point Thoroughbreds. Calumet Farm – winner of a record 17 Triple Crown races that includes the historic sweeps by Whirlaway and Citation – tied with St. Elias Stable at nine nominees, one more than Winchell Thoroughbreds.
Fipke bred 11 of the early Triple Crown to lead all breeders, edging Gainesway Thoroughbreds, which bred 10 nominees. They were followed by Godolphin (9), WinStar Farm (9), and Calumet Farm (6).
Tapit, the sire of Belmont Stakes winners Tapwrit and Creator (2016), led all sires with 22 early nominees. Pioneerof the Nile, the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, was next with 12 nominees, and was followed by Candy Ride (11), Curlin (11), Into Mischief (10), Medaglia d’Oro (9), and the late Scat Daddy (9).
The 360 nominated Triple Crown candidates include 324 colts, 20 geldings, 12 ridglings, and four fillies.
Gary Barber’s Ontario-bred Wonder Gadot is the most accomplished of the fillies. The Casse-trained daughter of Medaglia d’Oro has earned graded stakes wins against members of her gender in the Grade 2 Demoiselle at Aqueduct and the Grade 3 Mazarine at Woodbine.
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn, a $3 million yearling purchase at Keeneland’s 2016 September Sale, is the most expensive sales purchase among the early nominees. Seven total seven-figure auction purchases were nominated, including Good Magic, who sold for $1 million during the same 2016 sale.
The nominees include 288 horses that were bred in Kentucky, which is 80% of the overall total. Florida was next with 14 nominees and was followed by Maryland (10), New York (9), and California (5). International nominees include seven bred in Canada, six in Ireland, and two apiece from Great Britain and Japan.
Nineteen of the nominees are based outside North America, including 13 from Europe, three from Dubai, and a trio of Japanese-based runners: Cattleya Sho winner Ruggero, Mominoki Sho winner Work and Love, and the yet-unraced Copano Kicking.
The Kentucky Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975. The horses that enter the starting gate for its 2018 renewal will again be determined by points earned in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” eligibility system, which debuted in 2013. If entries to the Derby total more than the maximum field of 20, up to four “also eligible” entrants will be permitted. If one or more entrants scratch from the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field prior to 9 a.m. on Friday, May 4, the also-eligible horse or horses with highest preference in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” system assume the empty stalls in the starting gate.
The Preakness is limited to 14 starters and the Belmont permits a maximum of 16.
Any 3-year-olds that were not nominated to the Triple Crown during either the early or late nomination phases have a final opportunity to become eligible for the races through payment of a supplemental nomination fee. Due at the time of entry for either the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, or the Belmont, the supplemental fee process makes a horse eligible for the remainder of the Triple Crown series. A supplemental nomination at the time of entry to the Kentucky Derby requires payment of $200,000. The fee is $150,000 if paid prior to the Preakness and $50,000 at time of entry to the Belmont.
Churchill Downs adjusted its entry process in 2014 to permit supplemental nominees to be treated the same as original and late Triple Crown nominees. If one or more supplemental nominees possess sufficient “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field, they will be allowed to start over original and late nominees with lesser qualifications. Previously, Churchill Downs gave preference in all cases to early and late nominees.
Information on the Triple Crown nomination process – including a link to a print-and-mail nomination form – is available at www.theTripleCrown.com.