Romans 2-Year-Olds Work For Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

Romans 2-Year-Olds Work For Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
DEL MAR, Calif. (Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017) — Dale Romans doesn’t know if the Albaugh Family Stables’ 2-year-olds Free Drop Bill and Hollywood Star are as talented as his 2016 standout Not This Time. But the Louisville-based trainer believes both are good enough and doing well enough to win next Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar — the championship-crowning race that Not This Time narrowly lost last year at Santa Anita.
Free Drop Billy, the sharp winner of Keeneland’s Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity in his last start after losing Saratoga’s Hopeful in a photo finish, enhanced his growing reputation with a workout which the clockers timed for three-quarters of a mile in 1:14 2/5 Saturday morning at Del Mar. That followed an impressive move of five-eighths in 59 3/5 seconds at Santa Anita a week earlier, the fastest of 70 works at the distance.
“A year ago we had an awfully special horse,” said Romans, who as early as Sunday could overtake Hall of Famer Bill Mott as Churchill Downs’ all-time win leader. “I always say he’s the best 2-year-old I’ve ever had in Not This Time. But Billy is a horse that just keeps getting better and better and better. He’s so athletic, the way he gets over the racetrack and does things so easy. His two works in California have been absolutely spectacular. If he’s good enough, he’ll win.”
Romans called it a five-eighths of a mile work, which he clocked in 1:01, with a six-furlong gallop-out time of 1:13 3/5. He said the plan was to “just sit on him and without encouraging him, see what he wanted to do on his own. He had a fast work last week, and this week we wanted to leave a little bit in the tank. Hard to fill your tank up with seven days to a race if you empty it out.”
Tammy Fox, Romans’ life partner who is Free Drop Billy’s exercise rider, said that while last week’s work was quicker, she liked this one even better.
“He felt stronger to me,” she said. “He just skips over this racetrack. You don’t hear anything from him. He could sneak up a horse and neither the rider or the other horse would ever know it. That’s how quiet he is.
“Going into a big race like this a week out, everything is good. You couldn’t ask him to do any better. He’s not a big horse, but for his size, his stride is bigger than what you’d think. Just so fluent, and he reaches. Every step he makes on that dirt is just more of a reach for him. You can feel the acceleration and the power that he brings to me. That’s what I feel in my hands. It’s a pretty cool feeling.”
Not so impressive was Hollywood Star, a close second to 3-for-3 Juvenile hopeful The Tabulator in Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Iroquois, who worked more lethargically. Hollywood Star was timed five-eighths of a mile in 1:02 in a short-lived experiment wearing blinkers. Hollywood Star, a $650,000 yearling purchase by the Spendthrift Farm stallion Malibu Moon and out of the multiple Grade 1-winner Hollywood Story, worked in 1:00 3/5 last week at Santa Anita.
“Sure didn’t look like he liked them,” Romans said of the blinkers. “He didn’t work near as well as Billy did.”
Though Hollywood Star’s last race was Sept. 16, Romans said he’s not worried that colt didn’t get enough out of the workout. “He’s plenty fit,” he said. “That’s plenty for him. I just wish he’d breeze on his own like he would in company and work like we know he can run.
“Even his last work at Santa Anita, he’ll work a while then drop the bit. His ears go back and forth. He’s never been focused from start to finish of a work or a race. When he figures it all out, he’s going to be a superstar. And I was thinking the blinkers might keep him focused all the way through. But they might just have aggravated him.”
Romans and Jason Loutsch, racing manager and partner with father-in-law Dennis Albaugh in the stable, are not prepared to put Free Drop Billy in the same league as Not This Time, the Iroquois winner who was making his third start in the Breeders’ Cup when he dropped a neck decision to Classic Empire, coming out of the race with what proved a career-ending injury. But they love how the chestnut colt with the big white blaze is progressing and always believed he would thrive at longer distances. A son of the Lane’s End stallion Union Rags and a $200,000 Keeneland yearling, Free Drop Billy won his June 15 debut at Churchill Downs, was second in Saratoga’s Grade 3 Sanford and the Hopeful, then powered to a four-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity. (See stretch run)
“I think he has taken a step forward,” said Loutsch, who watched the work live on the TVG racing network while home in Des Moines, Iowa. “I thought he looked tremendous on the track, really relaxed the first half of the work. And when Tammy asked him down the lane, I thought he really just exploded — bellied down and did exactly what we wanted. We have no excuses going into next weekend.”
Robby Albarado, regular rider of both colts, opted to ride Free Drop Billy, with Joel Rosario to ride Hollywood Star.
A third Albaugh 2-year-old, the 2-for-2 Ellis Park Juvenile winner Dak Attack, missed the Breeders’ Futurity and subsequently the Breeders’ Cup with a tender shin. He could run in either Churchill Downs’ Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club on Nov. 25 or Remington Park’s Springboard Mile on Dec. 17, both offering points toward 2018 Kentucky Derby qualification.
“He never came out of training,” Loutsch said. “It was a really tough decision when we talked about it with Bret Jones (whose family bred Dak Attack and bought back into the colt after his purchase). We said, ‘Do we want to press on this and go forward? Or do we want to make sure he’s 100 percent going into the 3-year-old campaign? I think we made the right decision.
“Last year we were going with our superstar into the Breeders’ Cup and he had to be retired. To have three options like we do this year going into the Derby campaign is huge. These are animals and athletes and things happen. The more opportunities you have, the better your chances. To have two horses in the Breeders’ Cup is really, really cool. And our goal is to get three in the Kentucky Derby.”