Free Drop Billy Odds to Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes with Picks and Predictions
Some previews are easier to get excited about than others. This falls into the less-excited category for me. This is a horse that I just didn't like heading into the Derby, and he rewarded my pessimism by being just as underwhelming as I expected. His jockey would be close to the last guy I would pick to ride a top horse. And I just don't see how this horse is a real factor in the Belmont - or really why he belongs here at all. I usually leave the predictions to the end of the article to build suspense. However, at the risk of providing a spoiler, I'll tell you up front that I will not be betting on Free Drop Billy to win the Belmont Stakes - and I did not struggle to come to that decision.
Last race: The Kentucky Derby was a great race for Justify but a truly awful one for this colt. He got off slow and was shuffled to the back early on. He never recovered. He was dead last entering the stretch. Though on the surface he gained to finish 16th, in reality he lost significant ground to the leaders down the stretch and only gained spots because he hadn't really worked and was therefore able to move faster than the horses that were struggling and had really slammed it in reverse. It was a truly awful effort in every way. There are just two things we can take from it. First, it isn't an effort that would have taken a lot out of the horse, so he should be fresh here. And second, it was the first time he had run on a truly off track, and he clearly didn't take to it. If you want to be generous you can blame the no-show on that.
Prior experience: It's really a tale of two horses - the one prior to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last November and the one since. After breaking his maiden in the first try way back in June, he was a very solid second in two straight Grade 1 races before grabbing a Grade 1 for himself in the Breeders' Futurity, beating fellow Belmont hopeful Bravazo, among others, in a solid field. With a win and two seconds in races of that caliber he seemed like a top-tier colt. That was reflected by bettors in the Juvenile, where he went off at a very respectable 7/1 in the deep-and-talented field. The race, though, was a disaster for the horse. He was shuffled too far back early, tired after a underwhelming bid, and faded to ninth by the wire, nearly 30 lengths from winner Good Magic. It was ugly, and he hasn't been quite the same since. He was second in the Holy Bull but was just overwhelmed by the winner, Audible. He was third in the Gotham but was no real threat. He was fourth in the Blue Grass after a late charge that didn't seem to ever be good enough to threaten for the win. And then came the Derby. A colt that looked so promising at two has turned into very much an also-ran at three.
Trainer: Dale Romans won the Eclipse Award as top trainer in 2012 and the 2011 Preakness with Shackleford. He grabbed the Dubai World Cup, too. The guy can train and is capable of nurturing a top-quality horse just fine. And if he had one here I would have faith in him.
Jockey: Robby Albarado. Albarado, who rides a lot for Romans in Kentucky, was on the colt right up until the Juvenile, and then he was yanked after that bad showing. Romans tried three different guys without success before trying Albarado again in the Derby. It went poorly, but Romans is out of ideas so Albarado is back again. Albarado won the Preakness in 2007 and several other big races that year and the next after somehow landing in the saddle of the great Curlin. But riding a horse that could win on autopilot doesn't prove you are a good big-race rider. The guy has won more than 5,000 races, so he's not a total waste of oxygen. But in high stakes situations against top-level riders his tendency seems to be to turn his brain off and find a way to get his horse into trouble. Needless to say, he isn't my favorite option in this spot.
Breeding: The biggest reason this colt has been aimed at this spot has to be the breeding. Free Drop Billy is a son of Union Rags, who won the Belmont in 2012. As a young sire Union Rags has had some decent success. Most relevant to us, his son Patch, who famously raced with only one eye, was third in the Belmont last year. Free Drop Billy's damsire is Giant's Causeway, the European Horse of the Year in 2000 who was a close second in the Breeders' Cup Classic in his lone American start. He has been a solid sire with good stamina influences, though he has not produced a winner of a Triple Crown race. This is not the best pedigree in this race, but it is not close to the worst, either.
Odds: Free Drop Billy sits currently as the longest shot on the board at Bovada at +5000.
Can Free Drop Billy Win the 2018 Belmont Stakes?: No. Not unless he rediscovers long lost form, his jockey has his best big race ride in a decade, and the pace is absolutely crazy early on to set him up for a closing effort. That is far too many ifs to justify betting on him - even at this fat price.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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