By Trent Ledbetter (@23ledbetter on Twitter)
Free Drop Billy announced his arrival with a huge move in the first start of his career. Immediately after breaking his maiden he was moved into Graded Stakes company and that’s where he’s stayed throughout his career. This has been a horse who has had to develop and mature against top competition, but he’s delivered.
With seven graded stakes starts, he’s only finished out of the money once. With a win in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity he bested two other derby starters in Bravazo and Lone Sailor, by four lengths. His losses include a second to Firenze Fire in the six-furlong Sanford, a horse who has shown to like the shorter distances. A second to derby runner Audible in the Holy Bull, bested by Enticed in the Gotham, and a third to Good Magic and Flameaway in the Bluegrass. This horse time and time again has held his own against the top three-year-olds in the country and he’s one that has shipped to a handful of different tracks. He’s shown he likes Churchill breaking his maiden there first time out and looked at home and relaxed galloping there Thursday.
A Keeneland September Yearling Sale purchase, the Albaugh Family Stables purchased him for $200,000. This son of Union Rags is out of Trensa. A successful horse who broke her maiden at Keeneland, finished second in the Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial Handicap at Delaware Park, finished her career with a record of 19-3-2-7 and earnings of $170,470. Although her preferred surface was the turf, she craved longer distances, which explains why Free Drop Billy has improved with added distance. Trensa was also the dam of Hawkbill who most recently won the Grade 1 Dubai Sheema Classic. Free Drop Billy’s dam sire is the late Giant’s Causeway. His sire Union Rags, was known for his victory in the Belmont Stakes and is the sire of horses Paradise Woods, Patch, and Tequilita. Free Drop Billy has a deep pedigree that perfectly suits the mile and a fourth distance of the Kentucky Derby. With this pedigree there are only a few in here with better pedigree.
WHAT IT’LL TAKE TO WIN
The connections of Free Drop Billy have been here before. Last year with J Boys Echo and in the 2016 Kentucky Derby with Brody’s Cause. Louisville native Dale Romans is still seeking that elusive derby winner. He’s had a handful of top five finishes in the Derby and it seems it’s just a matter of time until he wins the big one on the first Saturday in May. Last year a month before the derby Robby Albarado broke his ankle after being set to ride J Boys Echo. He looks to make an impact this year as he gets the mount on Free Drop Billy.
Free Drop Billy’s running style is that of a presser, but I think to find success in the derby he needs to sit back a little. If he can draw away from Promises Fulfilled, the other Dale Romans starter, and not get caught up with the fast pace, he should benefit. In a perfect world for Free Drop Billy, Promises Fulfilled, Justify, and Mendelssohn get caught in an early pace battle as he sits back in the second pack. As they tire out he saves ground and energy and flies past them in the stretch. This in my opinion is the ideal set up for a horse like Free Drop. But this horse has shown us he can run with the best of the best, he’s definitely a horse you can’t leave off any tickets. He’s shown he likes the track, he’s got the pedigree, and as he turns for home he’ll have the hometown crowd cheering him to the wire.
photos by Holly M. Smith (@kyholmarie on Twitter)