LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Classic Empire, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, is among 418 3-year-old thoroughbreds made eligible during the early nomination period to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes.
Five fillies and 18 horses based outside North America, including nine from Japan, are also among the early nominees for the Triple Crown series.
The Kentucky Derby is May 6, the Preakness is May 20 and the Belmont is June 10.
This year's early nominations are up 13.6 percent from last year, when the early period attracted 368 horses. Another nine horses were made eligible during the late nomination period to raise last year's total to 377.
It costs owners and trainers $600 to nominate their horses during the early period, which ended last Saturday. The late period, requiring a payment of $6,000, is underway and ends on March 20. Horses have a final chance to become eligible at the time of entry for each race when the Derby requires payment of $200,000; the Preakness is $150,000; and the Belmont is $75,000.
Todd Pletcher led all trainers with 33 horses nominated. Bob Baffert and Doug O'Neill tied for second with 21.
Calumet Farm in Lexington, Kentucky, led all owners with 14 horses nominated, one more than Zayat Stables, the owner of 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.
Last year, each Triple Crown race had a different winner.