Pletcher’s 54(!) leads 346 Triple Crown early noms

A Churchill Downs press release

Sortable spreadsheet with information about the 346 early nominees

Past performances for the early noms (all courtesy Churchill Downs)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024) – The anticipation for the 2024 Triple Crown is well underway as 346 of the world’s most promising 3-year-old Thoroughbreds, led by reigning 2-year-old champion and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) winner Fierceness, were nominated to the three-race series for $600 during the first closing on Jan. 29.

The 2024 Triple Crown is set to open Saturday, May 4 with the 150th running of the $5 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) over 1 ¼ miles at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The 149th running of the $1.5 million Preakness, at 1 3/16 miles, will take place two weeks later on Saturday, May 18 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md. This year’s 156th running of the $2 million Belmont Stakes, the series’ 1 ¼-mile final leg, will be run at Saratoga Race Course on Saturday, June 8.

          This year’s total of early Triple Crown nominees was down from last year’s 369 nominations. The nominees included many horses stabled around the world including a record 47 from Japan, 10 more than last year’s mark of 37.

          Fierceness, one of Repole Stable’s 20 nominees to lead all owners, was one of 54 horses under the care of Todd Pletcher that nominated to the Triple Crown. He led all conditioners and was followed by Bob Baffert and Brad Cox with 18 each. Baffert’s trainees are only eligible for the Preakness and Belmont because horses under his care are ineligible to compete at Churchill Downs Incorporated-owned racetracks in 2024. (Kentucky HBPA math note: Pletcher’s 54 nominees reflect almost 16 percent of all the early nominations!)

Overall, 44 stakes winners were nominated to the Triple Crown. Some of the most notable are Catching Freedom (Smarty Jones); Hades (Holy Bull); Honor Marie (Kentucky Jockey Club); Locked (Breeders’ Futurity); Mystik Dan(Southwest); Nysos (Robert B. Lewis); Track Phantom (Lecomte) and Uncle Heavy(Withers).

          Early Triple Crown Nominees by the numbers:

  • $2,300,000: Highest public auction purchase – Sierra Leone (2022 Fasig-Tipton August Sale) 
  • $1,127,250: Highest earnings of an individual horse nominated (Fierceness). The other top earners (as of Feb. 3): Muth ($716,600), Locked ($608,400), Candied ($595,800), Forever Young (JPN) ($569,451) and Mystik Dan($510,110).
  • $5,000: Lowest public auction purchase – Stretch Ride (2022 Fasig Tipton October Sale)
  • 259: Number of Kentucky-bred horses. Other states represented are Florida (15), New York (13), California (7), Maryland (3), Pennsylvania (2), Colorado (1) Iowa (1), Indiana (1), Louisiana (1) and West Virginia (1). 
  • 159: Number of registered Bay horses. Other registered colors are Dark Bay or Brown (83), Chestnut (72), Gray or Roan (28), Gray (2), Brown (1) and White (1).
  • 129: Number of trainers that nominated horses to the Triple Crown.
  • 65: Number of unraced horses that nominated to the Triple Crown.
  • 42: Horses foaled outside the United States. Other countries are Canada (1), Great Britain (1), Ireland (3) and Japan (37).
  • 41: Horses who were foaled after Kentucky Derby Day (May 6).
  • 16: Horses produced by sire Constitution. He’s followed by Gun Runner(14), Justify (14), Into Mischief (13), Arrogate (11), City of Light (11) and Curlin (11).  
  • 4: Fillies nominated. They are CandiedGun SongLife Talk and Kopion.

Three-year-olds that were not nominated to the Triple Crown during the early nomination phase can pay a late payment of $6,000 through Monday, April 1 on

Thirteen horses have swept the Triple Crown series: 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), Affirmed (1978), American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018).

Jennie Rees is a communications and advocacy specialist in the horse industry who spent 32 years covering horse racing for The (Louisville) Courier-Journal before taking a corporate buyout. In addition to handling communications for the Kentucky HBPA, Rees is Kentucky Downs’ publicity director, manages in-season racing publicity for Ellis Park and serves as a consultant to the National HBPA. Other projects include the Preakness Stakes, Indiana Grand’s Indiana Derby Week and work for various HBPA affiliates and horsemen’s associations.