Joseph W. Sutton's Bitumen rallied strongly up the center of the track to run down the leaders and take Saturday's Grade 3 Sanford Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths on the wire. The 2-year-old son of Mineshaft covered six furlongs over Saratoga's fast main track in 1:10.68 under Javier Castellano for trainer Eddie Kenneally.
“I'm delighted with performance, he ran really, really well,” said Kenneally. “He got a great education today because he was in behind and took so much dirt. He overcame that and that goes to show how much class he has. He's a really nice horse. He galloped out good and ran a huge race. Today was a great foundation and education and will help him going forward.”
While Bay Numbers was the quickest out of the gate, he was immediately joined by the two colts to his inside, Random Walk and Zartera, to contest the early lead. Zartera took a brief one-length lead through the first quarter mile in :22.61, while Random Walk and Bay Numbers strode together behind him. Bitumen broke well but took himself back early, allowing Castellano to tuck him in against the inside rail, saving ground through the turn. Bronson, who was squeezed a bit at the start and was taken back off heels, had to regain his stride and was last early on.
Mid-way through the turn, Zartera was joined by both Random Walk and Bay numbers, and the three of them marked the half-mile together in :45.74. Bitumen was being ridden hard by Castellano already, but he did make up ground, and once the field straightened away in the stretch he angled out to mount his challenge. Rolling down the center of the track, Bitumen gobbled up ground and drew away to a 1 3/4 length victory. Random Walk continued on well for second while Zartera faded to third. Bronson was moving well late to gain fourth.
A brief stewards' inquiry into the top of the stretch looked at a bit of bumping between Random Walk and Zartera. Irad Ortiz, aboard Zartera, posted a rider's claim of foul, but the stewards ruled that there would be no change.
“He was very professional the way he did it, handling the dirt very well,” said Castellano. “Three horses up on the lead with a lot of kickback, it hit him for the first time in the face. You kind of anticipate he wouldn't like it much, but he went through it. He figured it out really quick and turning for home he gave me great acceleration. Very professional. He didn't break too sharp out of the gate. I didn't want to rush up, I just wanted to do the right thing with the horse, and he showed me a lot of class. It worked out great, just perfect, three horses went into a speed duel, I took my time and when I asked, he responded very well.”
Bred in Kentucky by Jamm, Ltd., Bitumen was originally a $110,000 yearling purchase at the Keeneland September Sale. Pinhooked through the Ocala Breeders' March Sale of 2-year-olds in training, Bitumen hammered for $280,000. The colt has now won both of his career starts, and boasts earnings of nearly $118,000.
Watch the race replay here:
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