Firenze Fire Wins Champagne and Free Drop Billy Captures Breeders’ Futurity
Firenze Fire and Free Drop Billy were awarded 10 points towards qualifying for the Kentucky Derby Saturday while also earning automatic invitations to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships Nov. 3-4 at Del Mar. The Road to the Kentucky Derby was at Belmont Park Saturday for the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (G1) and Keeneland for the huge Fall Stars weekend and the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity.
Firenze Fire circled the field five wide in the stretch under Irad Ortiz Jr. and rallied past the maiden Good Magic to win the Champagne Stakes by a half-length at Belmont Park. Owner Ron Lombardi and conservative trainer Jason Servis had differing opinions on where to run their colt leading up to the Breeders’ Cup. Servis was leaning towards the Grade III, 6-furlong Futurity Stakes Oct. 14 at Belmont, feeling he would be a top contender in that $150,000 spot for a near ideal distance. But the owner won out with his swing-for-the-fences approach, and it paid off with an automatic berth and a fees-paid entry in the $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
“I always go against the odds. I’m a risk taker and it paid off,” he said after his initial Grade 1 triumph.
Firenze Fire paid $24 for a $2 win wager. He covered the mile in 1:35.91. His next challenge is handling two turns in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Free Drop Billy registered his first stakes victory with a four-length decision in Saturday’s $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. The $2 million Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on November 4 is next for the Union Rags colt and Free Drop Billy will be one of the top contenders behind Bolt ‘d Oro at Del Mar.
Following runner-up finishes in the Hopeful (G1) and Sanford (G3), Free Drop Billy went off as the 3-2 favorite in the Breeders’ Futurity, and the chestnut’s victory also earned 10 points toward a berth in the 2018 Kentucky Derby starting gate by winning the qualifier. Trained by Dale Romans and ridden by Robby Albarado, Free Drop Billy was worked up in the post parade and appeared washed heading to the starting gate. But he showed his immense potential and “what he is really capable of,” Romans said.
Free Drop Billy paid $5.00 to win in and completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in 1:45.43. He’s now earned $428,020 from his four starts. Long shot Bravazo (47-1) was second and returned $25.20 and $12.80 for a $2 exacta payoff of $172.80.
The Breeders’ Futurity race was marred by the breakdown of Ten City, who was pulled up shortly after advancing to the lead nearing the completion of the far turn. He was vanned off the track after sustaining a fractured leg, but unfortunately had to be euthanized according to trainer Kenny McPeek.
Free Drop Billy easily captured his career debut going 5 ½-furlongs at Churchill Downs on June 15, and then finished a close 2nd in both the Sanford and then the 7-furlong Hopeful Stakes last month.
Next stop: the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4 at Del Mar.