A historically memorable stakes tradition, it was in the Sanford Stakes that Man o’ War’s mighty undefeated record fell to a horse named Upset. In 2015, the race caused some upset among bettors and fans alike when an oncharging Magna Light was disqualified to third for slight interference despite being much the best, elevating Todd Pletcher trainee Uncle Vinny to first.

Will we see an upset or a very upsetting result this year? Maybe, but maybe not so, thanks in part to a small field of five lining up to the gate for the 146th running of the $150,000 Sanford Stakes (III) at six furlongs for two-year-olds.

Once again, Todd Pletcher storms the hallowed grounds of Saratoga with his two-year-old crew, entering $350,000 Keeneland yearling Bronson in the Sanford in hopes of winning the stakes race for a record seventh time. Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez, who has won the Sanford seven times already, will be aboard the son of Medaglia d’Oro for owner Mathis Racing. Bronson broke his maiden last month at Monmouth by 1 3/4 lengths over a similarly small field, and the gray colt looks to be bred for distance being out of a multiple graded stakes winning daughter of Avenue of Flags (Seattle Slew)

The tough morning line choice, however, is Bitumen likely based off of his sharp pedigree and 6 3/4 length maiden snap at Churchill Downs on June 30. The son of Mineshaft and Kobla Cat, a half sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Quality Road, was purchased for $280,000 in March and earned a strong 86 Beyer speed figure for trainer Eddie Kenneally and owner Joseph W. Sutton in his first start.

“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.”

Bitumen will carry top jockey Javier Castellano in the Sanford.

Also entered in the race is Rick Violette trainee Random Walk, a bay son of Super Saver who led wire-to-wire in his debut race at Belmont Park, winning by 5 3/4 lengths. Out of a half sister to graded stakes winner Astrology, Random Walk will be piloted again by Jose Ortiz for owner Ralph M. Evans. Freshman sire Algorithms will be represented by Bay Numbers, a Live Oak-owned colt trained by Eddie Plesa Jr following an impressive 6-length tally on a muddy Monmouth track, set to have Paco Lopez aboard. From the rail is the latest two-year-old from Tapizar’s first crop to race, Zartera, for Winchell Thoroughbreds and trainer Steve Asmussen. Zartera, out of a half sister to Grade 1 winner Cuvee, also ships in off a win at Churchill, wiring the field to win by two lengths.

Top photo of Uncle Vinny courtesy of NYRA/Adam Coglianese

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