While Free Drop Billy's pre-race lather has not quite become endearing to his connections, as long as the juvenile continues to deliver efforts like his easy victory Oct. 7 in the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1), they'll take it.
Back home in Kentucky, Albaugh Family Stables' Free Drop Billy rolled to a four-length victory as the favorite in Saturday's Breeders' Futurity, a 1 1/16-mile test for juveniles.
"I'd rather him not do that, but he does it, and that's just him," said trainer Dale Romans of the pre-race sweating. "I think if he changed, I'd worry about it at this point. He's done it in all four of his races. He gets hot. It's not nerves. He just sweats."
Free Drop Billy ran well at Saratoga Race Course this summer, when he finished second to Firenze Fire in the Sanford Stakes (G3) and missed victory by just a neck in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) when second to Sporting Chance. About an hour before the Breeders' Futurity, Firenze Fire won the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park | BloodHorse.com Track Profile">Belmont Park.
Racing in Kentucky Saturday for the first time since his three-length maiden special victory in June at Churchill Downs, Free Drop Billy delivered the top performance of his career as he quickly opened a wide advantage in early stretch under Robby Albarado and sustained that advantage to the wire. The Union Rags colt completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.43 on a fast track.
Romans picked up his fourth Breeders' Futurity win. In 2005 he won with Dawn of War. He followed with scores by Dullahan in 2011 and Brody's Cause in 2015. Romans thought it more than coincidence that Free Drop Billy delivered his best effort to date in his first two-turn start.
"We always thought (it would suit him)," Romans said. "If you look at all his numbers on paper, every time they stretched a race a bit, he got a little bit better. Today I think we saw what he is really capable of."
The race unfortunately saw the catastrophic breakdown of grade 3 winner Ten City, who fractured his left front leg soon after he seized the lead in the far turn. He was euthanized after the race. Ten City was campaigned by Tommie Lewis and Magdalena Racing and trained by Ken McPeek.
The Breeders' Futurity is a Breeders' Cup Challenge "Win and You're In" race for the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar.
The Breeders' Futurity also is a 2018 Road to the Kentucky Derby race, awarding 10 points to the winner, four points to the runner-up, two points to the third-place finisher, and one point to the fourth-place finisher.
Free Drop Billy was followed home by longshot Bravazo, a Calumet Farm homebred trained by D. Wayne Lukas. GMB Racing's Lone Sailor finished third. Free Drop Billy paid $5, $3.80, and $2.80 across the board, while Bravazo returned $25.20 to place and $12.80 to show. Lone Sailor returned $8.80 to show. Lionite was another half-length back in fourth.
Albarado said Free Drop Billy has picked up a lot of experience in his four-race career.
"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," Albarado said. "When I got him outside, he ran home nicely."