10/24/2017 7:08PM

Road to the Derby analysis: Breeders' Futurity

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Coady Photography/Keeneland
Free Drop Billy, trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Robby Albarado, wins the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

Grade 1, $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity; 1 1/16 miles; Keeneland; Oct. 7, 2017
(10 Derby qualifying points for a win, 4 for second, 2 for third, 1 for fourth)

Winner: Free Drop Billy, by Union Rags
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Robby Albarado
Owner: Albaugh Family Stables
Beyer Speed Figure: 79

FREE DROP BILLY successfully stretched out in his first try around two turns in a race marred by the unfortunate demise of TEN CITY, who was cruising to the lead on the far turn when he suffered a catastrophic injury. Free Drop Billy went on to win as much the best over the rest of the field, and though he looked good doing it, the Beyer Figure wasn’t anything special.

Still, Free Drop Billy now owns two wins and two seconds in four starts, and has a win around two turns, all of which should at least make him a factor in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, where he’ll have to beat West Coast standout Bolt d’Oro. In addition, Romans has repeatedly proven himself adept at having horses primed and ready for the spring classics, so even though this fig came up a bit light, Free Drop Billy – who looked the part visually – bears watching.

The overall quality of this field is in question, though, as winless runners going two turns for the first time took two of the first five spots, and the runner-up had a previous career-best Beyer of 59.

Free Drop Billy was caught about four paths wide entering the first turn, but was cleverly angled inside to save ground by Albarado. He advanced down the backstretch to be at the back of a pack chasing the loose leader, READY PROSPECTOR, and went into the far turn between horses in traffic while appearing very keen to advance. He was not impacted when Ten City went wrong, had a clear path to attack BRAVAZO entering the lane, took command with authority, and drew off.

Bravazo, who finished second, raced three to four paths wide around the first turn while just outside an overeager EZMOSH, went into the far turn three paths wide while just outside Ten City, inherited the lead when Ten City was injured, could not stave off Free Drop Billy in upper stretch, was a bit late to change leads, but still safely held second.

LONE SAILOR, who was third, broke poorly and was last into the first turn while saving ground, remained inside down the backstretch and into the far turn, had to be angled well off the rail to avoid Ten City, swung into the lane about six paths wide, and got up for the show while never threatening the top two.

LIONITE, who was fourth, broke sharply and then settled into second around the first turn, on the rail and just behind Ready Prospector. He stayed there to the far turn, came off the rail on the turn, got past the stricken Ten City without being severely compromised while angling to the four path, then went evenly to the wire.

GIVEMEAMINIT, who was fifth, raced in mid-pack while between horses around the first turn, was saving ground on the far turn and steadily advancing when Ten City went wrong, safely got around him, split horses in upper stretch, but didn’t finish off his race.

Ezmosh, who finished sixth, checked leaving the gate, was sent along into the first turn but appeared a bit uncontrollable, was angled in for cover but remained too eager, then finally settled when between runners turning into the backstretch. He was right outside of Free Drop Billy with three furlongs to go, but could not go with him, then was pushed out a bit to avoid Ten City. He raced awkwardly in upper stretch, then was outrun through the lane. He might be a need-the-lead type.

CREA’S BRLYN LAW, who was seventh, could not get over from his wide draw and went into the first turn about six paths wide, remained well back down the backstretch, saved ground around the far turn and had no trouble getting around Ten City, angled to the middle of the track through the stretch, and passed tired horses.

BOURBON RESOLUTION, who was eighth, raced three to four paths wide toward the rear of the field around the first turn, was three paths wide entering the far turn, got fanned to the seven path coming off the bend by the rallying Lone Sailor, then never mounted a rally.

Ready Prospector, who was ninth, used his keen natural speed to seize the lead despite his outside post, got over to the rail before the first turn, set the pace while a bit headstrong, had a daylight lead midway through the race, came back to the field entering the far turn, was starting to weaken when Ten City went wrong, had to check slightly to avoid his stricken rival, then faded badly in the lane. He doesn’t want to run this far.

LONE ROCK, who finished 10th, lacked early speed and was angled toward the rail near the back of the pack around the first turn, took up and made some awkward steps to lose position at the three-quarter pole when Free Drop Billy moved past him, was taken to the middle of the track down the backstretch, was asked three furlongs out to advance, but had nothing to offer and never picked up his feet thereafter.

Ten City broke alertly and was in an ideal stalking position just outside Lionite and behind Ready Prospector around the first turn, took the lead from Ready Prospector on the far turn with minimal urging, and was leading when he was stricken.