Pickin' Time
Pickin’ Time, with Trevor McCarthy up, won the Grade 3 Nashua Stakes. Photo by NYRA.

A half-dozen horses bred in the Mid-Atlantic are among the 326 nominated to the Triple Crown series. That number includes two bred in Pennsylvania, and one bred in each of Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The early nominations were released this week. The connections were required to pay a $600 fee to nominate; those who missed this deadline can still nominate by March 29 with a $6,000 payment.

And if they miss that one? Then it gets pricey. Supplemental nomination fees are $200,000 for the Kentucky Derby, $100,000 for the Preakness, and $50,000 for the Belmont Stakes.

The first leg of the Triple Crown, the Kentucky Derby, is set to take place at Churchill Downs May 1. It will be followed May 15 by the Preakness and then the June 5 Belmont Stakes.

Two of the six nominees bred in the region are – like 42 of the 326 – already stakes winners.

The Maryland-bred Hello Hot Rod has won three straight races and most recently captured the $100,000 Jimmy Winkfield Stakes by a head. Bred by Hillwood Stables LLC, he’s a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Hello Beautiful.

And – good news for the deep-pocketed owner in need of a contender – he’s going to be offered for sale at the coming week’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky winter mixed sale. The ownership combo of Brittany Russell, who also trains him, and Dark Horse Racing LLC will likely make a pretty stellar return on investment; they paid $10,000 for the Mosler colt at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2019 yearling sale.

The other region-bred nominee who’s a stakes winner is the New Jersey-bred Pickin’ Time. The Stay Thirsty colt has won a pair of stakes. After scoring in Monmouth’s six-furlong Smoke Glacken, he went to Aqueduct to win the Grade 3 Nashua, a one-mile test.

Though his last two starts – in the Grade 2 Remsen and $100,000 Mucho Macho Man – haven’t been great, he nevertheless owns three wins and nearly $200,000 in earnings from seven career starts.

Pickin’ Time is trained by Kelly Breen for owner-breeder John Bowers, Jr.

Pennsylvania is the only mid-Atlantic state with two nominees bred there. The more accomplished of the pair is Too Boss, an El Padrino colt who broke his maiden January 17 by over five lengths in special weight company at Aqueduct. He is trained by Todd Pletcher for So Madcapt Stable and was bred by Mr. and Mrs. Michael Cascio.

Imperial Road, the other PA-bred nominated, has yet to make a start. A son of Quality Road, he’s being trained by Juan Carlos Guerrero for owner-breeder Whysper Wynd Farm LLC.

Virginia-bred Racarino has started twice, his best result a runner-up finish November 29 in a maiden event at Churchill Downs. A son of Mineshaft, he was bred by Lazy Lane Farms LLC. He’s trained by Jack Sisterson for Calumet Farm, which paid $90,000 for him as a yearling. He’s one of 10 horses nominated by Calumet.

The lone West Virginia-bred nominated is Dis Ones On Fire, a son of Golden Years who has not yet started. Triple threat James Locklear is the owner, breeder, and trainer of the gelding.

Several other intriguing nominees have mid-Atlantic connections, as well. Among them:

  • Eclipse champion two-year-old filly Vequist, trained by the Parx Racing-based Butch Reid. She’s one of 13 fillies nominated.
  • Brooklyn Strong, the Grade 2 Remsen winner who won at first asking at Delaware Park for trainer Daniel Velazquez.
  • Capo Kane, easy winner of the Jerome for Parx trainer Harry Wyner.
  • Shackqueenking, winner of the Howard County Stakes for Laurel-based conditioner Gary Capuano.
  • Newyearsblockparty, one of our Delaware Park two-year-olds to watch, who won twice during that meet and most recently was runner-up in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. He’s trained by Anthony Pecoraro for Black Cloud Racing Stable LLC.

The next races on the road to the Triple Crown take place February 6, with a pair of Grade 3 events, the Withers at Aqueduct and the Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay.

The 326 nominees for the upcoming series represent a 6.1% decline versus last year, when 347 were made eligible in the early period.