2022 Triple Crown: 312 Nominated, Pletcher Tops Trainers with 42 Nominees

By Richard Rosenblatt

Kentucky Derby Draw

Kentucky Derby Trophy – Courtesy of Churchill Downs/Coady Photography.

The opening $187,200 in entry fees is in the bank after 312 horses were nominated to compete in any of the Triple Crown races – the Kentucky Derby (G1), the Preakness (G1), and the Belmont Stakes (G1).

Late nominee fees are $6,000, due by March 6 (there were nine in 2021 — $54,000) and supplemental nominees due at time of entry are $200,000 (Derby), $150,000 (Preakness) and $50,000 (Belmont).

A mere bag of shells when one considers that the Saudi Cup (G1) – the world’s richest race set for Feb. 26 — has a purse of $20 million.

Nonetheless, winning the $3 million Derby is the dream of every owner, trainer, and jockey, and a victory in the $1.5 million Preakness or the $1.5 million Belmont isn’t too bad, either. Especially when it comes to breeding.

To say it’s not about the prize money would be correct when it comes to the Derby, but it’s the race everyone in the world wants to win.

Here are the highlights of the nominees – down 4.3% (14 horses) from 2021.

Corniche – Photo Courtesy of Benoit Photo

Corniche, the likely 2-year-old male Eclipse Award winner (champions announced Feb. 10), and Echo Zulu, the likely 2-year-old female Eclipse Award winner, are among the top nominees. Also on the list are Jack Christopher, Pinehurst, and Rattle N Roll.

Echo Zulu is one of six fillies made eligible. The nominees include a record 21 Japan-based horses, two based in Europe and one from Dubai.

Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher led all trainers with 42 horses nominated, followed by Brad Cox (26), Chad Brown (23), S

Todd Pletcher – Courtesy of NYRA press release

teve Asmussen (20), and Bob Baffert (18).

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert from competing in the 2022 Derby after his record seventh Derby winner, Medina Spirit, failed a post-race test for a banned race-day medication a year ago. Any horses trained by Baffert are not eligible to receiving Derby qualifying points. A final decision on the official 2021 Derby winner has yet to be determined.

Among the Grade 1 winners nominated are Corniche (Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, American Pharoah), Echo Zulu (BC Juvenile Fillies, Frizette, Spinaway), Jack Christopher (Champagne), Pinehurst (Del Mar Futurity), and Rattle N Roll (Breeders’ Futurity).

Baffert trains Corniche and Pinehurst, as well as Grade 3 winners Messier, Newgrange, and Rockefeller.

TV handicapper, analyst Kinchen suspended 2 years by NTRA

Kinchen – Photo courtesy of New York Racing Association

Jonathon Kinchen, a FOX Sports handicapping on the New York Racing Association circuit, has been suspended from the NTRA National Horseplayers Championship (NHC) for two years after he was disqualified for rules violations in last month’s tournament in Las Vegas.

The statement released this week by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), without naming Kinchen, said the disqualified player may request reinstatement to the NHC Tour when the suspension ends. The suspension covers the 2022 and 2023 NHC Tour seasons and the 2023 and 2024 NHCs.

“Maintaining the integrity of the NHC is of the utmost importance,” NTRA President and CEO Tom Rooney said in a statement. “We look forward to making the 2022 NHC Tour and the 2023 NHC the best ever.”

Kinchen was at the Las Vegas site of the tournament but left to attend the Pegasus World Cup in Florida on Jan. 29, a violation of NHC rules stating a player must remain on site for the competition.

After he was disqualified, Kinchen issued an apology to fellow competitors on his Twitter account.

It is unclear why the NTRA did not mention Kinchen by name in its press release.

Derby Future Wager Pool 3 opens

White Abarrio the Holy Bull – Photo courtesy of Lauren King

The third of five Kentucky Derby Future Wager pools opens Friday (Feb. 11) at noon ET with the pari-mutuel field of “all other 3-year-olds” the morning-line favorite of 5-2.

Unbeaten Smile Happy and Holy Bull (G3) winner White Abarrio are the top individual choices at 8-1.

As per the Churchill Downs press release, “horses under the care of trainers suspended from competing in the 2022 Kentucky Derby will not be under consideration.” This, of course, refers to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who has been suspended by CDI through mid-2023 after 2021 Derby winner Medina Spirit had a post-race positive test for a banned race-day medication. Baffert, and any others in the suspended category, have their horses included in “all-other-3-year-olds.’’

The other 21 individual horses in pool 3 are at double digits, starting with Emmanuel and Forbidden Kingdom each at 10-1.

The latest odds at BUSR.com list three Baffert trainees among the top four favorites — Messier at 10-1, Corniche at 12-1, and Newgrange at 16-1. Jack Christopher, trained by Chad Brown is 14-1.