Dennis Albaugh and his family can officially say they have a new tradition for this time of year. It involves celebrating the success of their talented juveniles, trying to soak in their reality, then booking tickets to the Breeders' Cup World Championships to see if they can do their best achievements one better.
With his four-length victory in the Oct. 7 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland, Free Drop Billy kept the above custom going for Albaugh Family Stables. The son of Union Rags gave his owners and trainer Dale Romans their second win in the race in the last three years and is on track to head to the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Del Mar Nov. 4.
Jason Loutsch, manager for Albaugh Family Stables and Dennis Albaugh's son-in-law, said Free Drop Billy emerged from his victory in good order Oct. 8 and is tentatively slated to ship to California Oct. 16 where he will attempt to put his team over the Juvenile hump following two years of near misses.
In 2015 Albaugh Family Stables celebrated their first grade 1 winner when Brody's Cause captured the Breeders' Futurity prior to running third in the Juvenile. Last year, their homebred graded stakes winner Not This Time finished second in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup test, beaten just a neck by eventual champion Classic Empire .
"I had to pinch myself this morning when I woke up and said, 'We won a grade 1 at Keeneland.' There is nothing better than that," said Loutsch, who caught himself and added with a laugh, "Well (a Breeders' Cup win) would be.
"We've got a third and a second (in the Juvenile) and who knows? Maybe this is our year. "(Unbeaten grade 1 winner) Bolt d'Oro looks like the next up-and-coming superstar but ... this is what you're in the business for—for big races like this."
Free Drop Billy broke his maiden first time out at Churchill Downs in June, then posted runner-up efforts in the July 22 Sanford Stakes (G2) and Sept. 4 Hopeful Stakes (G1). Being by a Belmont Stakes (G1) winner out of a Giant's Causeway mare, Romans and Co. were confident two turns would move the chestnut colt forward. Saturday's effort proved they weren't wrong, as Free Drop Billy rated mid pack before taking command entering the lane.
"I was excited (going into the Breeders' Futurity), because I wanted to see the horse go two turns," Loutsch said "He's bred to go two turns and ... if you want to win the Breeders' Cup, I think it's important to get a two-turn outing in. We couldn't be more excited with the progression he's made. He was a little green on the backside, and kind of ran up on some horses and was still figuring things out. We know there is more in the tank, and I think he's just going to get better and better with the more races and the longer he goes."
The Albaugh clan has another Breeders' Cup Juvenile contender in Hollywood Star, most recently second in the Iroquois Stakes (G3), and also has unbeaten stakes winner Dak Attack on the mend from some minor shin issues.
"He's doing really good. He's training every day still," Loutsch said of Dak Attack. "We'll look at the (grade 2) Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (at Churchill in November) or the Springboard Mile at Remington (Park in December). I'm hoping in the next couple weeks he'll start working again."
Saturday's Keeneland card also saw hard-knocking Zipessa earn herself a Breeders' Cup trip when she captured the First Lady Stakes (G1T)—her first top-level score in 16 starts. Trainer Michael Stidham said all was well with the daughter City Zip Sunday morning and confirmed the 5-year-old mare will point to the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1T) over 1 1/8-miles.
"She looks pretty good this morning," Stidham said. "We'll leave her (at Keeneland) for as long as we can, but we're probably going ahead to the Filly & Mare Turf. We're more than delighted that she could get it done. We knew she had it in her. It was just a matter of putting it all together on the right day."
European invader Suedois was reported to be in good order Sunday, following his narrow victory in Saturday's Shadwell Turf Mile Stakes (G1T) and is expected to head to Del Mar for the Breeders' Cup Mile (G1T) according to Fearghal Davis, head traveling lad for trainer David O'Meara.
Heart to Heart, who was nipped in deep stretch by Suedois, was "tired but good" the morning after the Shadwell, according to trainer Brian Lynch. Lynch said no decision has been made on whether the 6-year-old English Channel horse will head to the Breeders' Cup Mile, adding that he is not Breeders' Cup nominated and would have to be supplemented.
"The next couple weeks will be key as far as what he tells us," said Lynch, who added it would cost about $120,000 to enter Heart to Heart in the Mile. "I have a tendency to want to give him some time between races, because he runs so hard all the time. He lays it down for us. To me you'd have to really convince me to go to the Breeders' Cup. I know (the owners) really want to go, but they're cool. They're going to do the right thing by the horse.
"At this stage, I'll let him tell me over the next couple of weeks."