SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Making only his second career start and stakes debut, Bitumen stalked a blistering pace to find a perfect trip and remain unbeaten in capturing the Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford Stakes for juveniles on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course for owner Joseph W. Sutton and trainer Eddie Kenneally.
Breaking as the 4-5 post-time favorite from post position 5 with Javier Castellano aboard, Bitumen comfortably sat second-to-last as Zartera went away alertly to set fractions of 22.61 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.97 for the half with 8-5 second choice Random Walk and Bay Numbers in close pursuit.
As the field reached the quarter-pole, Random Walk passed Zartera to grab the lead while Bitumen was tipped out four-wide from the rail. Set down by Castellano in the late stretch, Bitumen swiftly switched leads to roll past Random Walk and earn the victory by 1 ¾ lengths, completing the six-furlong distance in 1:10.68.
“He was very professional the way he did it,” said Castellano. “Handling the dirt very well – 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.
Returning $3.90 for a $2 win wager, the 2-year-old son of Mineshaft boosted his career earnings to $117,900.
“I’m delighted with the performance,” said Kenneally. “He ran really, really well. 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.”
Rick Violette, trainer of second-place finisher Random Walk, was encouraged by his colt’s performance.
“He ran terrific,” said Violette. “He fell out of the gate and ran between two other horses; they were flying around there and he withstood them and shook them off. He went after the winner but we kind of set it up for them. He was very courageous, he really made another run, even at the winner.”
Following Zartera in third were Bronson and Bay Numbers.