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Fast juveniles Bitumen, Random Walk clash in Sanford

By David Grening

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Though only five 2-year-olds were entered in Saturday’s Grade 3, $150,000 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga, there is an intriguing matchup between Bitumen and Random Walk in the six-furlong race.

Bitumen, a son of Mineshaft trained by Eddie Kenneally, was visually impressive and ran a fast six furlongs (1:09.49) in winning his debut by 6 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs on June 30. He earned a solid Beyer Speed Figure of 86.

Random Walk, a son of Super Saver trained by Rick Violette, won his debut at Belmont on June 3 by 5 3/4 lengths, running 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.35 and earning a 90 Beyer.

Bitumen’s advantage over Random Walk may be the fact that he has already run the Sanford distance and has drawn the outside post in the compact group. Further, he got a workout over the track, breezing four furlongs in 48.54 seconds here last Sunday, and picks up Javier Castellano.

“Worked super, galloped out great, nice to get him up here and get him a feel for the track before we ran him,” Kenneally said.

Random Walk, who worked a half-mile in 47.60 seconds last Saturday at Belmont Park, will break from post 2 under Jose Ortiz.

Zartera, a front-end debut winner at Churchill Downs for Steve Asmussen; Bronson, a debut winner from a stalking position at Monmouth for Todd Pletcher; and Bay Numbers, a front-end winner in the slop July 9 at Monmouth for Eddie Plesa, complete the field.

Due to the small field, the Sanford was carded as the third on an 11-race card that also includes the Grade 1 Diana for fillies and mares on turf.

Sanford, Race 3


Bitumen, by Mineshaft

Beyer: 86

◗ Despite breaking from the rail, he appeared to be comfortable down inside and withstood two, then three pace challengers before drawing away in the stretch.

“He did it right, not intimidated at all, just acted like a horse that had run,” Kenneally said.

◗ Kenneally is in search of his first graded stakes victory at Saratoga. He is winless in 23 prior tries.

Random Walk, by Super Saver

Beyer: 90

◗ Also broke from the rail in his debut, was asked to make the lead, and drew off well in a smart-looking debut.

“He’s certainly got enough speed to go to the lead, but we did give him a refresher course, putting him behind horses and letting him split them,” Violette said. “You got to break running, but if somebody blasts off in 21, 44, I don’t think we need to do that.”

Zartera, by Tapizer

Beyer: 79

◗ Was hustled to the lead by Ricardo Santana Jr., had a horse challenge him from the inside, and then drew clear to win by two. The third- and fourth-place finishers from that June 16 race came back to win, albeit one was a maiden turf race at Ellis Park, and the other was a maiden claimer on dirt at Laurel Park.

◗ Gets a rider switch to Irad Ortiz Jr.