The deadline for owners and trainers to make their promising 3-year-old Thoroughbreds eligible to compete in the coveted races of the 2015 Triple Crown during the series’ late nomination phase will arrive just before midnight (all times Eastern) on Monday, March 23. Horses nominated prior to that cutoff time will join 429 made eligible during its early nomination phase to run in the series of American classics 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).
The late nomination period, which opened on Sunday, Jan. 18 following the conclusion of the early nominations phase, will close Monday, March 23 at 11:59 p.m. (all times Eastern). Each late nomination must be accompanied by payment of a $6,000 fee.
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.
A total of 429 horses were nominated to the Triple Crown during the early nomination period, which required payment of a $600 to nominate. This year’s nomination total reflected an increase of 15 nominations – or 3.6 percent – from 2014 when 414 3-year-olds were made eligible during the Triple Crown’s early nomination phase. The 414 early nominations in 2014 was a 12.2 percent increase over the 369 horses made eligible during that phase in 2013.
Ten horses were nominated during the 2014 late nomination period for a final total of 424. The overall total was the largest since a record 460 horses were nominated to the Triple Crown in 2008.
Three-year-olds not nominated for the Triple Crown series during either the early or late nomination phases have one more opportunity to become eligible to compete in those 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 once that fee is paid. 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.
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 that 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. 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 of 16 horses in its starting gate.
Churchill Downs adjusted its entry process in 2014 to permit horses who 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 36-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 Calumet Farm’s Citation and Meadow Stable’s Secretariat’s record-shattering three-race sweep in 1973.
Steve Coburn and Perry Martin’s homebred fan favorite California Chrome scored impressive victories in the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but could not end the Triple Crown drought and finished fourth to Robert S. Evans’ Tonalist in the Belmont Stakes. California Chrome was the 52nd 3-year-old to win two of the three Triple Crown races. Despite his setback in the Belmont, the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit was honored as racing’s 2014 “Horse of the Year” and also earned the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old.