Free Drop Billy is a very intriguing horse for the 144th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Currently 15th in the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard with 44, he’s guaranteed himself a spot in the race and has run well in every career start, aside from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile when he put up a clunker that even his trainer, Dale Romans, couldn’t explain. Here’s why I think he’s a must-play underneath on your exotic tickets.
Free Drop Billy hasn’t finished off the board this year (3-0-1-2) while running against classy horses such as Good Magic, Flameaway, Enticed, Audible, and Firenze Fire, making Free Drop Billy more battle-tested than most. As a 2-year-old, he won the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland last October, a race in which he defeated other Derby contenders Bravazo and Lone Sailor. He also battled with Sporting Chance and Firenze Fire in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga last September, a race in which Sporting Chance nearly took him out. The Hopeful wasn’t the only race when Sporting Chance interfered with him, which should help when met with the heavy traffic that he’s sure to see in the Derby. If we draw a line through his Breeders’ Cup race, then his past performances set him up very nicely. As Saratoga Slim’s pace analysis explains, horses must be on or close to the lead nearing the 1/8 pole in order to have a shot at winning. In each of Free Drop Billy’s previous races (minus the Breeders’ Cup), he’s been in prime pressing position near the 1/8 pole turning for home. Here are a few of note:
- Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes: 3 1/2 lengths from the lead
- Grade 3 Gotham Stakes: a head from the lead
- Grade 2 Holy Bull Stakes: 5 1/2 lengths from the lead
Free Drop Billy hasn’t worked much since the Blue Grass, with only two works to date, both at Churchill Downs. The works, however, were fantastic. On April 21, he galloped for over a mile before being let loose, going 5 furlongs in :59 flat. The work, which was a bullet best of 52 that morning, was discussed at length by several analysts who made sure to note that the rider didn’t have to ask Free Drop Billy at all, a great sign. On April 28, he ran 4 furlongs in a leisurely :49.40, but Romans was most likely just using the work to keep him loose. From a fitness perspective, he seems to be rounding into peak shape.
From a breeding angle, Free Drop Billy should excel at the Derby’s 1 1/4-mile distance. His sire, Union Rags, won the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes in 2012, while his dam, Trensa, ran second in the 1 3/8-mile Grade 3 Robert G. Dick Memorial Stakes in 2009. Trensa is out of Giant’s Causeway, another horse that excelled in several races at or longer than the Derby.
Another positive for Free Drop Billy? He has a win over the Churchill Downs main track, having broken his maiden on debut her last June. The more experience over the track, the better for him.
The main reason that I like this horse as an exotic pick is because his odds should be elevated when the Derby goes off. He didn’t win a single prep race and is not one of the big six contenders (Good Magic, Audible, Justify, Vino Rosso, Magnum Moon, and Mendelssohn). That group will take the bulk of the betting public’s money, elevating other horses’ odds to high overlay prices. Free Drop Billy’s average odds from several different Las Vegas sports books have been around 35-1, representing tremendous value for a horse that has only missed the board once and is made for the added distance of the Kentucky Derby. I am not saying to play this horse on top, and my opinion could change depending on his post-position draw on Tuesday, May 1. For now, though, he’s very interesting as a potential exotic play that could pay off at the windows.