Led by 2-year-old champion and two-time Grade I winner Essential Quality, a total of 326 3-year-old Thoroughbreds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown during the early nomination phase, which closed Jan. 23.

Each of the 326 horses from the 2018 foal crop were made eligible through a $600 payment to compete in any leg of the Triple Crown series. The 2021 Triple Crown opens Saturday, May 1 with the 147th running of the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The 146th Preakness, its 1 3/16-mile second jewel, is set for Saturday, May 15 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. The 153rd running of the Belmont Stakes, the series’ 1 ½-mile final leg, is scheduled for Saturday, June 5 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

Essential Quality, owned by Godolphin, is scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut in the $750,000 Southwest Stakes (GIII) on Feb. 15 at Oaklawn, according to his trainer Brad Cox. The champion 2-year-old of 2020 was one of 14 horses Cox nominated to this year’s Triple Crown series.

Trainer Todd Pletcher led all conditioners with 45 horses nominated to the Triple Crown followed by Bob Baffert (23), Steve Asmussen (22) and Chad Brown (18).

Godolphin led all individual owners with 11 horses nominated followed by Brad Kelley’s Calumet Farm with 10.

Overall, 42 stakes winners were nominated to the Triple Crown. Among them are Brooklyn Strong (Remsen); Caddo River (Smarty Jones); Capo Kane (Jerome); Fire At Will (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf); Get Her Number (American Pharoah); Greatest Honour (Holy Bull); Jackie’s Warrior (Champagne); Keepmeinmind (Kentucky Jockey Club); Life Is Good (Sham); Medina Spirit (Robert B. Lewis); Midnight Bourbon (Lecomte); Senor Buscador (Springboard Mile); Sittin On Go (Iroquois); Spielberg (Los Al Futurity).

Total nominations were 21 fewer horses than last year’s 347 during the early stage, a slip of 6.1%.

Early Triple Crown Nominees by the numbers:

  • $1.5 million: Tied for the highest public auction purchase price between Conquer the World (2019 Fasig Tipton August) and Golden Whim (2019 Keeneland September Yearling).
  • 265: Number of Kentucky-bred horses. Other states represented are California (5), Florida (14), Illinois (1), Louisiana (2), Maryland (1), New Jersey (1), New York (17), Pennsylvania (2), Virginia (1), Washington (2) and West Virginia (1).
  • 20: Horses produced by top sire Into Mischief. He’s followed by Curlin (14), Uncle Mo (14) and Constitution (13).
  • 14: Horses foaled outside of the United States. Other countries are Canada (7), Ireland (4) and Japan (3).
  • 13: Number fillies that were nominated. Among them are champion 2-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) winner Vequist and Ashland (GI) winner Simply Ravishing.
  •  5: Number of horses nominated who are based in Japan including Zennippon Nisai Yushun winner Alain Barows (JPN) and Cattelya Sho winner Lemon Pop

Horses not nominated during the early phase can be made eligible until Monday, March 29 with a $6,000 payment. Any horse not nominated during the early or late phases can become Triple Crown eligible through payment of a supplemental nomination fee due at the time of entry for each Triple Crown race: the Kentucky Derby ($200,000), Preakness ($100,000) and Belmont ($50,000).

Thirteen horses have swept the Triple Crown series: Sir Barton (1919), Gallant Fox (1930), Omaha (1935), War Admiral (1937), Whirlaway (1941), Count Fleet (1943), Assault (1946), Citation (1948), Secretariat (1973), Seattle Slew (1977), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

Past Performances courtesy of Brisnet

Early Triple Crown Nominations