LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Essential Quality, winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and last year's 2-year-old champion, is among 326 3-year-old thoroughbreds made eligible during the early nomination period to compete in this year's Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.
Other top horses include Fire At Will, Greatest Honor, Keepmeinmind, Life Is Good, Medina Spirit and Midnight Bourbon.
The total is down 21 horses from last year's 347 that were nominated during the early stage, which costs $600 per horse and closed Jan. 23. The late period, requiring a payment of $6,000, continues through March 29.
Thirteen fillies, including BC Juvenile Fillies winner and last year's champion 2-year-old filly Vequist, also are among the early nominees for the Triple Crown series, which opens with the Kentucky Derby on May 1. The Preakness is scheduled for May 15, and the Belmont is set for June 5.
Fourteen horses from outside the United States are nominated, led by Canada with seven.
Two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher led all trainers with 45 nominations, followed by six-time Derby winner Bob Baffert (23), Steve Asmussen (22) and Chad Brown (18).
Godolphin led all individual owners with 11 horses, followed by Calumet Farm owner Brad Kelly with 10. Godolphin owns Essential Quality, who is trained by Brad Cox.
Into Mischief was the leading sire, with 20 offspring nominated.