Three Chimneys Farm and Besilu Stable’s Dubai Sky, who ran an ongoing winning streak to four races with an impressive triumph in the $535,750 Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (Grade III) at Turfway Park, and I Spent It, winner of the Saratoga Special (GII) and runner-up in the Hopeful (GI) for the partnership of Alex and Joann Lieblong and Three Chimneys, head a roster of nine horse made eligible to compete in the races of the 2105 Triple Crown prior to conclusion of its late nomination phase on Monday, March 23 (pending late mail). The late nominations raised the overall nomination total of 3-year-old Thoroughbreds eligible to run in 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) to 438.
The Triple Crown’s early nomination phase had closed on Jan. 17 with 429 horses made eligible to the Triple Crown races at $600 each. Late nominations required a payment of $6,000 per nominee.
The overall nomination total of 438 horses is the largest since a record 460 horses were nominated to the coveted three-race series in 2007 and ’08. The total of early and late nominees to this year’s Triple Crown is an increase of 3.3 percent from 2014, when 10 late nominations boosted the overall nomination total to 424.
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.
Dubai Sky, a son of Candy Ride from the stable of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, won the Spiral by 2 ¼ lengths in his first start over a synthetic racing surface after he opened his career with four races on turf that included a win in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream Park. The victory lifted his career record to 4-0-1 in five races and increased his earnings to $430,080.
Mott also made Gary Barber, Brous Stable and Wachtel Stable’s Gotham (Grade III) runner-up
Tiz Shea D eligible for the Triple Crown prior to the late nomination deadline. The son of Tiznow won his career debut in February at Parx in his only other start.
The Saratoga Special victory and a runner-up finish to Competitive Edge in the Hopeful remain the career highlights for the Tony Dutrow-trained I Spent It. The son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver recently returned from a five-month layoff with a sixth-place finish in an Oaklawn Park allowance race. I Spent It has a career record of 2-1-0 in five races and has earned $346,340.
Others on the roster of late nominations include:
- A pair of 3-year-olds trained by Todd Pletcher in Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners’ Comfort, a son of Indian Charlie who recently joined Pletcher’s stable, and Starlight Racing’s Two Weeks Off, a son of Harlan’s Holiday last seen in competition in an August maiden victory at Saratoga. Pletcher now has 36 3-year-olds nominated to this year’s Triple Crown series;
- Tom O’Grady’s Bridget’s Big Luvy, a son of Tiz Wonderful who won the $100,000 Private Terms at Laurel Park for trainer Jeremiah Englehart;
- Divining Rod, a homebred son of Tapit owned by Lael Stables who was third in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) and runner-up in the Sam F. Davis for trainer Arnaud Delacour. Lael Stables owned and bred 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro;
- Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s unbeaten Mr. Jordan, a two-time stakes winner in 2014 at Gulfstream Park West for trainer Eddie Plesa Jr.; and
- Skychai Racing LLC and Sand Dollar Stable’s Pepper Roani, runner-up in the John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park for trainer Mike Maker.
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, 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 of 16 horses in its starting gate.
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 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.