Sent off the 4-5 choice in a field of five, the 2-year-old Mineshaft colt swung four wide off the turn and put in an authoritative run down the center of the track. He passed 8-5 second choice Random Walk in the final sixteenth and pulled clear by 1 3/4 lengths, finishing six furlongs on a fast track in 1:10.68.
"I'm delighted with performance, he ran really, really well," trainer Eddie Kenneally said. "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."
There was an inquiry into the stretch run and an objection posted by Irad Ortiz Jr., the rider aboard third-place finisher Zartera, against Jose Ortiz and Random Walk for bumping around the final turn, but the stewards allowed the results to stand.
Jockey Javier Castellano was patient early aboard Bitumen, allowing the Eddie Keneally trainee to settle into stride fourth from the outside post, while Zartera sped out to the early lead with Random Walk and Bay Numbers in close pursuit.
"He was very professional the way he did it, 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," Castellano said. "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. He didn't break too sharp out of the gate. I didn't want to rush up, I just wanted to do the right thing with the horse, and he showed me a lot of class. It worked out great, just perfect, three horses went into a speed duel, I took my time and when I asked, he responded very well."
After a quarter went in :22.61 and a half in :45.79, Castellano set Bitumen down for the drive. The bay colt, coming off a maiden special weight victory at first asking June 30 at Churchill Downs, gained momentum after making the far turn and targeted Random Walk, who had taken over from Zartera in the early stretch battle.
Bitumen pushed past his rival after five eighths in :58.17, and surged to the lead for his second win in a row. He returned $3.90, $2.50, and $2.10 while Random Walk brought $2.70 and $2.20. Zartera paid $2.80. Bronson and Bay Numbers, who got pinched at the break, completed the order of finish.
Rick Violette, trainer of Random Walk, was pleased with his runner's effort.
"He ran terrific," Violette said. "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."
"He was a little bit between horses from the half-mile pole to the quarter pole, but he was brave in there," jockey Jose Ortiz said of Random Walk. "He was taking me there. The horse who won is amazing, too, with that stretch run. He was second-best today but I still have a really nice horse."
Bred in Kentucky by Jamm Ltd. out of the Tale of the Cat mare Kobla Cat, herself a half sister to grade I winner Quality Road , Bitumen was a $280,000 purchase by agent Barry Berkelhammer from the Eddie Woods consignment to the 2016 Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s March sale of 2-year-olds in training. Bradley Thoroughbreds pinhooked him into that sale after purchasing him for $110,000 from the Mill Ridge consignment to the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Bradley also pinhooked Random Walk, a Super Saver colt bred in Kentucky by Crystal Ball Stables out of the Yes It's True mare Lunargal. He was an $80,000 buy from Fasig-Tipton's Kentucky 2015 select yearling sale, and went through Woods' consignment to the OBS March sale for $300,000.