The stability that has slowly crept its way back into the Thoroughbred marketplace may be spilling over into other areas of the racing industry.
Although the number of early nominees for the Triple Crown series declined for a third straight season, the minuscule difference compared to last year's figures was viewed in a positive light. A total of 364 horses have been nominated for this year's renewals of America's three classics, just two fewer than last year.
This year's early nominees represent the lowest overall number since 358 3-year-olds were nominated in 2005 when the industry was still struggling with the effects of mare reproductive loss syndrome.
"Despite a difficult economy, a reduction in annual foal crops and other challenges to our horse industry, the Triple Crown's early nominations are basically flat with last year's total," said Don Richardson, senior vice president of racing for Churchill Downs. "That's a wonderful show of faith on the part of the international group of owners and trainers that have nominated horses to this year's races."
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The early nomination period, which costs $600, closed on Jan. 22. A late period for nominations — at $6,000 each — will conclude March 26.
Six horses were made eligible for the Triple Crown series during last year's late nomination period, which raised the final total of 2010 nominees to 372.
Todd Pletcher, who captured his first Kentucky Derby in 2010 with Super Saver, and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert each nominated 20 horses to the Triple Crown to lead all trainers. Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation leads the ownership bracket with 13 nominees, but his Dubai-based Godolphin Racing stable was notably absent from the roster.
Four fillies are among the 364 nominees, headed by Grade I winner Turbulent Descent.