Looking to build off a stellar debut which he won by an impressive 6 ¾ lengths, Bitumen headlines a field of five 2-year-olds in the Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford Stakes at six furlongs on Saturday at Saratoga Race Course.
A $280,000 Ocala Breeders Sale purchase this March by Joseph W. Sutton, the son of Mineshaft has impressed trainer Eddie Kenneally since entering his barn and winning first out on June 30 at Churchill Downs.
“He ran a huge race,” said Kenneally. “He had trained really well before that and acted like a nice horse. We liked him quite a bit that day and he ran a real professional race for a first timer.”
Slightly bothered at the break, Bitumen finished well clear from the field of eight and earn an 86 Beyer Speed Figure.
“He didn’t break real sharp in his first start but he was quickly up on the pace,” added Kenneally. “I think he’s pretty versatile. He didn’t have to be up on the lead so I’m just to leave it up to Javier [Castellano] depending on the break on where he needs to be or where the horse wants to be. We’re just going to play it by ear.”
Expected to attract a lot of support, Bitumen will leave from post positon 5 with Javier Castellano aboard.
Trainer Todd Pletcher, who has won six straight consecutive training titles at Saratoga will saddle Bronson for Mathis Stables. A $350,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, the son of Medaglia d’Oro won his debut on June 18 at Monmouth Park.
“It was a good debut,” said Pletcher. “He’s been a pleasant surprise to us because we felt as a colt, it might take him a little more time to come around. He also has a lot of turn in his pedigree so his dirt form has kind of been a bonus.”
With Hall of Famer John Velazquez in the irons, Bronson will depart from post 4.
Entering off a field-high 90 Beyer Speed Figure for trainer Rick Violette and owner Ralph Evans is Random Walk. A son of Super Saver, he debuted on June 3 at Belmont Park where he was in hand most of the way before drawing clear to win by 5 ¾ lengths.
With Jose Ortiz Jr. returning for the mount, Random Walk will leave from post 2.
Rounding out the field for the 102nd running of the Sanford are Zartera, for trainer Steve Asmussen and Winchell Thoroughbreds, who won his debut on June 16 Churchill Downs and Bay Numbers for trainer Eddie Pleasa, Jr. and Live Oak Plantation.
#5 Bitumen – I’ll start by saying you can’t go wrong with either of the two horses I have listed in this categories as they both had great debut victories. It’s basically splitting hairs trying to pick between the two, but after watching replays I lean toward Bitumen slightly. To me the factors were stacked against him a bit more in his race as he was against the rail inside horses and was still able to draw away impressively without being intimidated. I also believe the second place horse in that maiden race is a nice horse, and he totally blew him away. His final six furlong time was really impressive so it looks like he has a bright future ahead of him.
#2 Random Walk – He was all the rage when breaking his maiden on debut at Belmont Park on June 3rd and for good reason as he won by five lengths and earned a 90 beyer speed figure. That figure was the highest by any two year old until Del Mar opening weekend when Chasing Aces ran an eye popping 101 on debut. Obviously just like Bitumen this horse has a big time future and will be the favorite in this race which is deserving. No way I’d play against him in any multi race bet, and if you want to bet him to win I wouldn’t argue with that either. Like I said with these two top horses…it’s very hard to separate them and we could be in for a showdown.
#4 Bronson – Just like Pletcher’s runner in the Schuylerville Stakes on Friday this horse went to Monmouth Park to break his maiden. Although the racing at Monmouth is solid it doesn’t really compare to the racing on the NYRA circuit so I’m a little concerned with the jump up in competition today. However, this is Todd Pletcher with a two year old at the Spa so you can never count him out. He just doesn’t look to be quite as fast as the top two in here, but it would be wise to play him underneath because you have to think he’ll run well for this barn.
#1 Zartera – You can never count out Asmussen with two year olds, and even though this horse didn’t have an overly impressive maiden win compared to the top horses in here it doesn’t mean he can’t jump up and win this thing. The top three I have listed will most likely take the majority of the money, so this horse could sneak up high enough on the tote board to make him worth a shot. He’s certainly in with a shot and could compete if he improves off that debut race.
#3 Bay Numbers – Seems to be the odd man out in this short but very tough field. His maiden win wasn’t quite as impressive as the others in this race, and he won it in the slop. Looks like he needs to step up today to compete.