Today, Churchill Downs released the list of early nominations to the Triple Crown. The early nomination period closed with 368 nominations. The group of nominees contains a pair of horses who raced in the Arlington-Washington Futurity this summer, as well as another pair of Illinois-bred colts:
Cocked and Loaded – Trained by local mainstay Larry Rivelli, Cocked and Loaded won the Iroquois Stakes (GIII) at Churchill Downs last September. The Kentucky-bred son of Colonel John began his career with trainer John Hancock, winning an April baby race at Keeneland. Subsequently, Richard Ravin and Patricia’s Hope LLC purchased him privately, and he won the Tremont Stakes at Belmont for them and Rivelli. Cocked and Loaded has only made one appearance in Chicago so far, in the Arlington-Washington Futurity (GIII). He finished fifth as the 6/5 favourite, but bounced right back when he returned to dirt in the Iroquois. Cocked and Loaded last ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which he finished a creditable fifth. He has not yet returned to the worktab at age three.
Discreetness – Discreetness debuted at Arlington in August, winning a five and a half furlong maiden special over the polytrack. The Jinks Fires trainee returned in the Arlington-Washington Futurity, finishing sixth. Experience and dirt, however, have served this son of Discreet Cat well. He romped in an allowance at Churchill Downs in September. Though he finished a disappointing fourth behind Mo Tom as the favourite in the Street Sense Stakes in November, he has since rattled off a pair of stakes wins. He rallied for a gritty nose victory in the Remington Springboard Mile. He then bested a stubborn Gordy Florida by a neck to win the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn. Expect to see Discreetness return in the Southwest Stakes (GIII), the next race in Oaklawn’s series of Derby preps.
Richie the Bull – Illinois-bred Richie the Bull won three times in four starts at age two for trainer Larry Rivelli. He broke his maiden in May at Arlington, in the first two-year-old race of the Arlington season. He won a six-furlong allowance at Keeneland in October, beating eventual multiple stakes winner Mo Tom in that effort. After a third-place finish in the Juvenile Dirt Sprint on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard, he concluded his season with a win in the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity at Hawthorne. That race was Richie the Bull’s first try at two turns. A son of Benny the Bull, Richie the Bull is a half-brother to Dom the Bomb, winner of both the Sun Power Stakes and the Jim Edgar Illinois Futurity in 2014. He has three works at Tampa Bay Downs through the course of January, including a five-furlong bullet on January 23. He returns in this Saturday’s Swale Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream Park. It will be Richie the Bull’s first start under trainer Joan Scott, and will provide his stiffest class test yet.
Start a War – Though Start a War has not raced in Illinois, the colt was bred in the state. By Grand Slam, he is out of Jabber Dabber Doo, a Pleasant Tap half-sister to Illinois-bred stakes winners River Bear and Lady Riss. He broke his maiden at second asking at Fair Grounds, winning a six-furlong sprint by open lengths. The Bret Calhoun trainee returned in an allowance on January 18, trying two turns for the first time. Roger Brueggemann trainee Candy My Boy wired the field. But, Start a War stayed on for third after being just about stopped going into the far turn. Start a War has not made his stakes debut yet, but he is an early bird nominee to the Louisiana Derby.
Several locally connected owners also have a solid presence on the Triple Crown nominations list.
Conquest Stables owns six nominees: Conquest Big E, Conquest Daddyo, Conquest Harlequin, Conquest Streetwar, Conquest Superstar, and Conquest Windycity. All race for the Mark Casse barn; none has raced in the Chicago area to date. The only graded stakes winner among them, so far, is Summer Stakes (GII – CAN) winner Conquest Daddyo. The son of Scat Daddy returned to finish fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, as well. Conquest Daddyo has yet to try the main track, however, and returns Saturday in the Kitten’s Joy Stakes at Gulfstream — over grass. However, Conquest Stables does have one horse in a Kentucky Derby prep this weekend: Churchill Downs allowance winner Conquest Big E has entered the Holy Bull Stakes (GII).
Chicago-area mainstay Midwest Thoroughbreds has four Triple Crown nominees: Jay’s Way, Quijote, Twenty Four Seven, and Unexplained. Among them, Chris Richard trainee Unexplained has gotten the most Derby buzz. He broke his maiden emphatically at Churchill in November, and finished a rallying second behind Conquest Big E in an allowance there later that month. However, he went almost a month between works, then checked in just fourth behind Cutacorner in an Oaklawn allowance last week. Quijote, a Tom Amoss trainee, is undefeated in two starts at Fair Grounds, including an allowance win over Illinois-bred Cashel Rock last out.
Absent from the list is Illinois-bred Shogood, winner of the Arlington-Washington Futurity. The Scott Becker trainee had strong form over the Arlington polytrack through the summer, but he finished well beaten in both the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs last November, as well as the Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn on January 18.
Today’s list comprises the majority of the Triple Crown nominees, but there is a late nomination period that runs through Monday, March 21. Picks and Ponderings will update with any locally connected late nominees at that time.
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