Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Good Magic headlines a lineup of 360 3-year-old Thoroughbreds nominated early for this year’s Triple Crown series, which begins with the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
A son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and trained by Chad Brown, Good Magic won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 4¼ lengths over fellow nominees Solomini and Bolt d’Oro last November.
Combined with his second place in the Oct. 7 Champagne at Belmont Park last October, Good Magic already has 24 Road to the Kentucky Derby points to lead the early contenders. For perspective, in 2017 just 40 series points were good enough to gain entry into the 20-horse Derby field.
Good Magic also tops the nominees’ earnings list for his short career with $1.2 million in winnings with Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn, trained by Aiden O’Brien, second with $706,652. However, it’s the Jason Servis-trained Firenze Fire, winner of the Champagne, and the Bob Baffert-trained McKinzie, winner of the Los Alamitos Futurity, who rank second in Derby points, each with 20.
Other Grade I winners among the nominees include Free Drop Billy, trained by Dale Romans, Sioux Nation and U S Navy Flag, both also trained by O’Brien, and Sporting Chance, trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
Mendelssohn cost the most at auction, going for $3 million at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Good Magic went for $1 million at the same event.
Todd Pletcher, the winning trainer in two of the three legs of the Triple Crown last year with Always Dreaming in the Derby and Tapwrit in the Belmont Stakes, leads all trainers with 37 nominations. Baffert, who won the Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah, ranks second with 32 early nominations ahead of Steve Asmussen with 17.
Zayat Stables, owner of American Pharoah, tops the owners list with 12 early nominations, ahead of WinStar Farms’ 11.
The list includes 288 horses born in Kentucky, 17 born internationally, 20 geldings, 12 ridglings and four fillies, the most accomplished of whom is Wonder Gadot, a Canadian-bred two-time stakes winner trained by Mark Casse.
Thursday’s announcement marks the lowest number of early nominations since 2005 when the $600 fee was paid for 358 horses, and it comes from the smallest estimated North American foal crop (22,500) since 1967. Last year, 419 horses were nominated early, and six more paid the late nomination fee of $6,000 before the Derby.
There are six races left in the early prep season, contests that offer 10 road to the Derby points to the winners, including this Saturday’s Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita, Withers at Aquaduct and Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park.
The Risen Star on Feb. 17 at Fair Grounds marks the beginning of seven 50-points-to-the-winner races. Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on April 7 is among seven 100-points-to-the-winner races that offer a virtual lock on entry into the Kentucky Derby.
2018 Triple Crown races
May 5: Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville
May 19: Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
June 9: Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park in Elmont, N.Y.