The deadline for owners and trainers of promising 3-year-old Thoroughbreds to make their horses eligible for the coveted races of the 2015 Triple Crown series is approaching quickly. The window to the early nomination phase for the trio of American classic races that includes the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), the $1.5 million-guaranteed Preakness (GI) and the $1.5 million-guaranteed Belmont Stakes (GI) will close on Saturday, Jan. 17.

Early Triple Crown nominations opened Dec. 20 and the deadline for acceptance of early nominees is Jan. 17 at 11:59 p.m. (all times Eastern). The nomination of each horse must be accompanied by a fee of $600 to make that individual eligible to compete in any or all races in the series. 

A late nomination period, which requires the payment of a $6,000 for each nominated 3-year-old, will open at 12 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18 and run through Monday, March 23

The 2015 Triple Crown series opens on Saturday, May 2 with the 141st running of the 1 ¼-mile Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The 140th Preakness, the 1 3/16-mile second jewel, is set for Saturday, May 16 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. The 147th running of the Belmont Stakes, its 1 ½-mile final leg, is scheduled for Saturday, June 6 at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.

All Triple Crown nominations made by traditional mail during the early phase must be postmarked by the Jan. 17 closing date. Nominations can easily be made online at www.TheTripleCrown.com, or via telephone with a designated representative from one of the three Triple Crown host tracks. Online and telephone nominations must be made prior to the 11:59 p.m. deadline on Jan. 17.

The roster of early nominees to the 2015 Triple Crown races will be released on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 2 p.m.

The 2014 Triple Crown series attracted 414 early nominations, a 12.2 percent increase over the 369 horses made eligible in that period in 2013. Ten more 3-year-olds were added during the late nomination phase, which brought total Triple Crown nominations for 2013 to 424. The number of total nominations in 2014 was the largest since a record 460 horses were nominated to the Triple Crown in 2008.

The Kentucky Derby field has been limited to 20 starters since 1975 and the horses that enter the starting gate for this year’s running will again be determined by points earned in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” eligibility system, which debuted in 2013. If Derby entries total more than the maximum field of 20, up to four “also eligible” entrants will be permitted. If one or more starters is scratched prior to 9 a.m. (Eastern) on Friday, May 1, the also-eligible horse or horses with the highest preference in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” system will be allowed to replace the scratched horse or horses in the starting gate.

 The field for the Preakness is limited to 14 starters, while the Belmont Stakes permits a maximum field of 16 horses.

Three-year-olds that were not nominated for the Triple Crown series during either the early or late nomination phases have a final opportunity to become eligible for the races through the payment of a supplemental nomination fee. Due at the time of entry for either the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness or the Belmont Stakes, 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 or $75,000 at time of entry to the Belmont Stakes.

Churchill Downs adjusted its entry process in 2014 to permit horses who are made nominations prior to the Kentucky Derby to be treated the same as original nominees. If one or more supplemental nominees possess sufficient “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points to qualify for the Derby field, they will be allowed to start over original nominees with lesser qualifications. Under its previous policy, Churchill Downs gave preference to original nominees to the Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown over supplemental nominees.

A sweep of the three Triple Crown races – one of the most difficult feats in all of sports – has been accomplished on only 11 occasions. The roster of Triple Crown winners includes 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) and Affirmed (1978).  

The 37-year gap since the most recent Triple Crown sweep by Affirmed in 1978 is the longest in the history of the series. The previous record was the 25-year span between the 1948 Triple Crown earned by Citation and Secretariat’s record-shattering three-race sweep in 1973.

Steve Coburn and Perry Martin’s California Chrome scored impressive victories in the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but could not end the Triple Crown drought when he finished fourth to Robert S. EvansTonalist in the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome was the 52nd 3-year-old to win two of the three Triple Crown races.