By Steve Sherack
With the First Saturday in May the main objective, Albaugh Family Stable purchased six yearlings–five colts–at the 2016 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for a sum of $2.66 million.
Three of those acquisitions have already hit the ground running, kicking off their careers with impressive debut victories for trainer Dale Romans beneath the Twin Spires during the recently concluded Churchill Downs spring meeting, including the July 22 GIII Sanford S.-bound Free Drop Billy (Union Rags).
“When we go to the sales, we’re looking for two-turn colts to get the Classic distance and to get to the Triple Crown races,” said Jason Loutsch, co-owner/racing manager for Albaugh Family Stable. “We bought these horses thinking they’d start peaking at three. Dale was very impressed with them when they came off the farm from AbraCadabra and he thought they were the type that could win as 2-year-olds, which is not typical of our program, but a great surprise. This is new territory for us looking for stakes races this early, and we’re excited to start off this weekend at Saratoga.”
Free Drop Billy, a $200,000 KEESEP graduate, was bumped from both sides at the start and launched a visually impressive rally from between horses on the far turn en route to a three-length graduation June 15 (video). The half-brother to last term’s G1 Coral-Eclipse S. winner Hawkbill (Kitten’s Joy), bred in Kentucky by Helen K. Groves Revokable Trust, is out of the graded stakes-placed Giant’s Causeway mare Trensa. The blaze-faced chestnut’s second dam is Serape (Fappiano), heroine of the 1992 GI Ballerina S. at the Spa.
“Free Drop Billy had an impressive debut,” Loutsch said. “He received a good education going through some traffic and made a nice move down the lane. We’re looking for a big effort from him. He came out of the race training great and had a bullet [five-furlong] work [in 1:00.60 1/32] at Churchill Downs [July 9]. He’s an athletic type and has the pedigree to go along with it. We’re excited about him.”
Dak Attack (Ghostzapper), the priciest of the KEESEP sextet at $625,000, shared the spotlight along with Free Drop Billy on the same Churchill Downs twilight card, scoring two races later in a four-horse field as the 1-2 chalk (video). Placed in a tracking second, the grandson of GI Kentucky Oaks heroine and champion 3-year-old filly Proud Spell (Proud Citizen) set his sights on the pacesetter at the top of the stretch and put away that stubborn foe late to win by 1 1/4 lengths. Bred in Kentucky by Brereton C. Jones, Dak Attack is out of the stakes-winning Indian Charlie mare Indian Spell.
Hollywood Star (Malibu Moon), a son of two-time Grade I heroine Hollywood Story (Wild Rush), achieved ‘TDN Rising Star’ status while running to the money against a deep-looking group as the 3-2 favorite June 28 (video). Off to a slow start after getting bumped at the break, he began to rally while about five wide on the far turn and kept on coming in the stretch to score by a promising half-length. Bred in Kentucky by George Krikorian, Hollywood Star, a $550,000 KEESEP yearling, was the most expensive colt of his sire’s 44 yearlings to sell at auction last year.
“We thought going in that Dak Attack and Hollywood Star were probably our two best 2-year-olds coming into the barn,” Loutsch said. “We’ll look at the [GII] Saratoga Special [Aug. 13] and the Ellis Park [Juvenile Aug. 20] and just try to separate them the best we can. We’ll probably put one in each race, hopefully, and see where that leads us.”
Loutsch is credited with introducing his father-in-law Dennis Albaugh to the sport. Albaugh, Iowa’s richest man, made his fortune in agribusiness. Albaugh Family Stable’s blue silks have been carried by recent standouts such as two-time Grade I winner Brody’s Cause (Giant’s Causeway), this year’s GIII Gotham S. winner and ‘TDN Rising Star’ J Boys Echo (Mineshaft) and 2016 runaway GIII Iroquois S. hero and narrow GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway), who was retired to Taylor Made Stallions for the 2017 season after suffering a soft tissue injury. The Albaughs also campaigned MGSW and inaugural Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint third-place finisher Miss Macy Sue (Trippi). That one’s also proven her worth in the breeding shed for the family, producing GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Liam’s Map (Unbridled’s Song) (sold for $800,000 at KEESEP) as well as the aforementioned Not This Time.
Their current crop of 2-year-olds also includes Not This Time’s unraced half-brother Next Week (Bodemeister), a $450,000 KEESEP RNA; and $500,000 KEESEP purchase Bryzzo (Medaglia d’Oro), a half-brother to GISW Time and Motion (Tapit) named after popular Chicago Cubs Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo. A group of approximately eight, led by bloodstock agents Barry Berkelhammer and Steve Castagnola, make up the family’s buying team at the sales.
“We’re excited that our horses have shown some talent as 2-year-olds, but in this business, I’ve learned the highs are great and the lows are really low and you don’t want to get too excited this early because so many things can happen with these horses,” Loutsch said. “It’s nice to win races with 2-year-olds first time out, especially knowing that they weren’t squeezed on. They did it on their own and if they continue to go forward, it’s going to give us a lot of excitement heading into the fall and the Breeders’ Cup and the stakes races leading up to the Kentucky Derby.”