Eclipse Award winners Lookin At Lucky and She Be Wild lead a field of 366 3-year-olds nominated to the Triple Crown races, while Todd Pletcher returns to the head of the trainers list with 20 nominees.
With the economy still shaky, the number of horses nominated to the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes is down for the third year in a row. It's nearly a 9 percent drop from the 401 nominated in 2009.
However, eight fillies, including 2-year-old champion She Be Wild, were nominated _ twice as many as last year. Perhaps their owners were motivated by the success of Rachel Alexandra, who became the first filly in 85 years to win the Preakness.
The list of early nominations was released Sunday by Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., on behalf of the tracks hosting the Triple Crown races.
"Our nomination total is down a bit, but the 366 horses on the roster represents as deep a field of quality prospects as we've seen over the years," Donnie Richardson, Churchill's senior vice president for racing, said in a statement.
The nominees include 324 colts, 30 geldings, eight fillies and four ridglings.
Three-time Derby winner Bob Baffert trains 2-year-old male champion Lookin At Lucky and ranks among the top trainers with 13 nominees. Among his other contenders are Conveyance and Tiz Chrome.
Pletcher leads all trainers for the fifth time in the last six years. Among his nominees are Eskendereya, Rule and Super Saver. He's looking for his first Derby winner.
One horse to keep an eye on is Lentenor, a full brother to ill-fated 2006 Derby winner Barbaro. With the same owners (Roy and Gretchen Jackson) and trainer (Michael Matz) as Barbaro, the bay colt won his first start this year.
Back on the trail in a big way is Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, winner of 13 Triple Crown races. He's second with 19 nominees, including Hopeful Stakes winner Dublin.
John Sadler is third with 16, followed by two-time Derby winner Nick Zito with 15, Baffert (13) and Richard Mandella with 11. Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra's trainer Steve Asmussen, who led the pack last year with 25 nominees, has six this time.
Thoroughbred Legends Racing Stable leads all owners with 12 nominees, which include horses trained by the big three of Baffert, Lukas and Zito. WinStar Farm LLC is next with 10.
Dubai ruler Sheik Mohammed continues his Derby quest with his Godolphin Racing operation nominating eight horses. Among them is Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Vale of York.
The early nominating fee was $600. A late nomination fee of $6,000 ends March 27.
Lookin At Lucky's lone loss in six starts came in the BC Juvenile, when he was beaten by a head by Vale of York. The colt rebounded from the defeat with a win in the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 19. She Be Wild won the BC Juvenile Fillies, and it remains to be seen whether owner Nancy Mazzone would consider her star for the Triple Crown races.
Vale of York is one of 17 overseas nominees.
Ahmed Zayat, who led all owners the past three years, nominated just two horses after recently filing for bankruptcy protection in New Jersey.
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