LEXINGTON, Ky. — Saturday’s Grade 1, $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland was marked by euphoria and heartbreak, with Free Drop Billy punching his ticket for the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with a four-length victory, while mid-race leader Ten City sustained a fracture to his left front leg on the far turn and had to be euthanized.
The fatal injury to Ten City marred what was otherwise an exciting renewal of the Breeders’ Futurity, a race in which Free Drop Billy overcame being blanketed in traffic down the backstretch and second turn before rolling past the pack on the outside once cut loose by jockey Robby Albarado.
The winner, along with all the other 2-year-old colts in the Breeders’ Futurity, miraculously avoided a fast-retreating Ten City as that one slowed rapidly when being deftly pulled up by jockey Corey Lanerie.
With the win, Free Drop Billy stamped himself a contender for the Nov. 4 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in which he is expected to be one of the secondary favorites behind Bolt d’Oro. He earned a paid berth in the Juvenile with the Breeders’ Futurity serving as a Win and You’re In Challenge race.
Trainer Dale Romans, who won his fourth Breeders’ Futurity, was pleased to see how Free Drop Billy improved in his first attempt at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Juvenile.
“As he’s gone further, he’s gotten faster,” Romans said. “You never know if they can do it, but we always hoped and thought he would do this.”
Free Drop Billy, runner-up in the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga last out, also earned 10 qualifying points toward the 2018 Kentucky Derby. Though he was drawing away with every stride at the end of the race, there seemed to be more left in the tank.
“Once he got in front, he got a little lazy,” Albarado said. “I expected that. He’s never run that far before.”
A 2-year-old son of Union Rags out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Trensa, Free Drop Billy raced 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.43, giving owners Albaugh Family Stables their second Breeders’ Futurity, following Brody’s Cause two years ago. He paid $5 as the favorite in the field of 11.
Checking in behind Free Drop Billy was 47-1 Bravazo, with Lone Sailor 2 1/2 lengths farther back in third.