07/23/2016 3:30PM

Bitumen's rally gives him Sanford Stakes victory

Barbara D. Livingston
Bitumen, with jockey Javier Castellano aboard, wins the Sanford Stakes on Saturday at Saratoga.

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- It wasn’t that Bitumen won Saturday’s Grade 3 Sanford Stakes but more how he won the $150,000 stakes for 2-year-olds at Saratoga that has his connections excited about the future.

After dueling on the lead to win his debut, Bitumen was 6 1/2 lengths off the pace after the opening quarter of the Sanford. But under a busy Javier Castellano, Bitumen made a move into contention around the far turn, responded when asked to run four wide in the stretch, and rallied to win the Sanford by 1 3/4 lengths.

Random Walk, part of a three-ply speed duel, finished second by three lengths over Zartera. Bronson, who had all kinds of trouble in the race, and Bay Numbers completed the order of finish.

The win gave trainer Eddie Kenneally his first graded stakes victory at Saratoga in his 24th attempt.

“He ran a huge race, got a great education today because he was in behind and took so much dirt,” said Kenneally, who trains Bitumen for owner Joseph Sutton. “He overcame that and just showed how much class he has; just a really, really nice horse, and he galloped out good. I think going forward. the distance of these races is going to get longer. and I think that’s what he's going to be better at.”

Bitumen had the outside post in the five-horse field. He was bumped after Random Walk broke outward, pushing Bay Numbers into Bronson and Bronson into Bitumen.

Zartera, breaking from the rail, spurted out to the lead while Random Walk and Big Numbers chased him. Bitumen was in fourth, 6 1/2 lengths off the pace.

“We had a little bump, he lost his momentum right there, and I had to go to Plan B because my plan was to put him into the race really close to the pace,” said Castellano, who also said Bitumen didn’t care for the dirt in his face.

Zartera, Random Walk, and Bay Numbers were heads apart through a half-mile in 45.79, with Bitumen in fourth. Castellano was really asking Bitumen around the turn, he spun four to five wide in the stretch, and then set sail after Random Walk, who had put away the other speed.

Bitumen caught Random Walk inside the eighth pole and drew clear late. Bitumen, a son of Mineshaft, covered six furlongs in 1:10.68 and returned $3.90 as the odds-on favorite.

“He broke okay, got outsprinted, and dirt hit him in the face, and he didn’t care for that,” Kenneally said. “Then he found himself way farther back than I ever thought he would be, but thankfully he was able to overcome that. He’s got a lot of class.”

Kenneally said Bitumen would be pointed to the Grade 1 Hopeful on Sept. 5.