By Dick Downey
On Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, Free Drop Billy breezed five furlongs in :59.20 (1/15) under regular exercise rider Juan Segundo.
“I don’t think he got over the track well at all in the Derby,” trainer Dale Romans said of Free Drop Billy's 16th-place finish. “I think he’s coming into the race a better horse than when he faced Justify in the Derby. He’s been really training well in the lead-up to the Belmont, and today was not any different."
Free Drop Billy is by Belmont Stakes winnner Union Rags out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Trensa.
"The Belmont is unique for every horse because they are testing 1 1/2 miles," Romans said. "It will be the only time they’ll ever do this in their entire career. It’s new for every horse. Obviously, pedigree is a part of the puzzle in this picture. Free Drop seems like he can run all day so he should be able to handle the distance.”
As far as today's move, Romans expressed his usual optimism.
"He worked really well today," Romans said. "He did it all on his own and worked fast, galloped out strong and looks healthy and happy walking back. I wanted him to run along, stretch his lungs a little bit but no time that we had to have. But it looked perfect. He had a lot of horse, and he did it easy on his own. It was fast but under control.
"He's training so well," Romans said. "He's always been consistent. Throw out...two races and he's hit the board every time, and the mile and a half might be the difference-maker. You don't know if the others will like it, and his pedigree says he should. But you don't know until you try.
"I'd love to upset him in the Belmont," he said. "The thing about the Travers (when Keen Ice beat American Pharoah) was, it was surprising how many people cheered the horse and cheered us walking back. I thought they'd all be booing us when America's horse got beat. It just shows you how smart racing fans are up in New York. I think they'll be cheering a good performance, no matter who it is."
Free Drop Billy is scheduled to fly to New York on Wednesday morning, leaving the grounds at approximately 8:00 to 8:30 ET..
Justify readied for his final breeze before the June 9 Belmont Stakes with a 1 1/2-mile gallop under regular exercise rider Humberto Gomez Sunday morning at Churchill Downs.
“It was another perfect day of training,” assistant Jimmy Barnes said. “We’re very fortunate he has not had a bad day of training. He’s simply a pleasure to be around. If it’s meant to be, we can win the Belmont.”
Gomez remarked after his morning's work on Justify's stability.
"He's very competitive, he loves to train, he loves to run. So far he feels good. I would like to say he feels better, he feels worse, but he feels exactly the same," Gomez said. "I know after the Preakness he was a little tired, because it was a hard race running with Good Magic, but other than that he recovers so quickly. I was telling people how good he's eating. He always eats good. That's very important, that's key number one."
Bob Baffert is expected to arrive Sunday in Louisville for Justify’s Monday breeze at 7:30 a.m. California-based jockey Martin Garcia is scheduled to work Justify.
Bravazo galloped about 1 1/2 mile with exercise rider Danielle Rosier aboard for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Bravazo is expected to be vanned to New York on Monday.
Baffert's other Belmont horse, Restoring Hope, also galloped 1 1/2 mile under Gomez.
Justify and Restoring Hope are scheduled to fly to New York on Wednesday morning and will leave the grounds at approximately 8:00 to 8:30 ET.
Tenfold, who breezed five furlongs in 1:01.60 yesterday for trainer Steve Asmussen, had a scheduled walk day at Barn 38.
Tenfold is scheduled to fly from Louisville to New York on Tuesday morning, leaving Churchill Downs at approximately 10:30 to 11:00 ET.