July 15, 2024

Free Drop Billy wins convincingly as Breeders’ Futurity favorite

Free Drop Billy, Romans' other runner, got in via DQ of a rival (c) Coady Photo

Runner-up in the Hopeful (G1) and Sanford (G3), Free Drop Billy registered his first stakes victory with a four-length decision in Saturday’s $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. The $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on November 4 is next for the Union Rags colt and Free Drop Billy may wind up being the second choice to Bolt d’Oro at Del Mar.

A prohibitive 3-2 favorite among 11 runners, the chestnut also earned 10 points toward a berth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby starting gate by winning the qualifier.

Owned by Albaugh Family Stables, the winner is trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Robby Albarado. Romans, who notched his fourth overall Breeders’ Futurity victory, also captured the 2015 edition for the Albaughs with Brody’s Cause. And these are the same connections of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Not This Time.

The 1 1/16-mile race was marred by the breakdown of Ten City, who was pulled up shortly after advancing to the lead nearing the completion of the far turn. He was vanned off the track but unfortunately, the Grade 3-winning colt sustained a fractured leg and had to be euthanized according to trainer Kenny McPeek.

Free Drop Billy rated in midpack behind early fractions in :23.34 and :47.11. He launched his move rounding the far turn and took the lead entering the short stretch drive, powering clear as he rolled unopposed to the wire. The chestnut, who appeared washed out heading to the starting gate, completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.43.

“Today I think we saw what he is really capable of,” Romans said.

The trainer was asked about the 2-year-old getting worked up in the post parade.

“I’d rather him not do that, but he does it, and that’s just him. I think if he changed, I’d worry about it at this point,” Romans said. “He’s done it in all four of his races. He gets hot – it’s not nerves, he just sweats.”

Free Drop Billy easily captured his career debut going 5 ½-furlongs at Churchill Downs on June 15 and overcame a less-than-favorable trip to finish second by a length in the 6-furlong Sanford (G3) at Saratoga. Stretching out to 7-furlongs at the same venue, he missed by only a neck as the 3-1 choice in the September 4 Hopeful.

Albarado was happy to receive a clean trip aboard the long-striding youngster.

“He’s been inside basically in all of his starts,” the jockey explained. “He’s been in a lot of trouble in all of his starts, and he’s got a lot of hair on his chest for a young horse. When I got him outside, he ran home nicely. Once he got in front, he got a little lazy. I expected that. He’s never run that far before.”

Free Drop Billy has now earned $428,020 from his four starts. He’s out of the Grade 3-placed Giant’s Causeway mare Trensa, making him a half-brother to Grade 1 turf winner Hawkbill, and turf will always be an option with his dam being a half-sister to Batique, a multiple Grade 3 queen on sod.

Bravazo, who was overlooked at 47-1 following a last-out maiden tally, held to be a clear second after chasing the early pace. The late-running Lone Sailor wound up another 2 ½ lengths back in third at 17-1, a half-length better than 21-1 Lionite in fourth. Givememinit checked in fifth as the 5-1 third choice and Ezmosh was sixth at 7-2.