Five Promising Two-Year-Olds to Watch This Summer

July 04, 2016 07:18am
Bitumen MSW 615 X 400
Photo: Coady Photography

~Written by J. Keeler Johnson

Summer may have officially started back in June, but for horse racing fans, summer doesn’t truly begin until racing is underway at Saratoga! The 2016 meet begins in less than three weeks, and one of the highlights of the meet will be the top-notch program of juvenile races, including the Sanford Stakes (gr. III), Saratoga Special (gr. II), and Hopeful Stakes (gr. I). Let’s take a look at some promising two-year-olds that we might see at Saratoga this summer!

Battalion Runner (Unbridled’s Song—Tamboz, by Tapit)

Although he could only finish second to Random Walk (see below) in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight at Belmont on June 3rd, I was very impressed with Battalion Runner’s performance. Despite trouble at the start when forced to steady after breaking slowly, Battalion Runner rallied well to finish a strong second, 7 ½ lengths in front of the third-place finisher. He wasn’t going to catch Random Walk, but Battalion Runner might have made the finish closer with a better start, and given his strong pedigree (he’s a half-brother to the three-time graded stakes-place filly Oceanwave), I think this Todd Pletcher-trained colt will be one to watch as the distances get longer down the road.

Bitumen (Mineshaft—Kobla Cat, by Tale of the Cat)

This Eddie Keneally-trained colt couldn’t have been much more impressive winning his debut sprinting six furlongs at Churchill Downs on June 30th. Breaking from post position one, Bitumen (pictured above) engaged in a three-way battle for the lead through fractions of :22.48 and :46.37, then took command and powered away from his rivals through a rapid final quarter-mile in :23.12 to win by 6 ¾ lengths in the final time of 1:09.49. Wow! This was a fantastic debut by a colt that’s bred to stretch out, and Bitumen looks like a future graded stakes winner in the making.

Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway—Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi)

Although he was no match for Bitumen in the June 30th maiden race at Churchill Downs, Not This Time showed promise in defeat. After breaking slowly and trailing the field early on, Bitumen stayed on nicely in the homestretch to rally and finish fifth, beaten just 3 ½ lengths for second. Trainer Dale Romans is excited about this half-brother to 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) winner Liam’s Map, and given that Romans’ runners don’t usually win their first races, I would expect to see Not This Time take a big step forward in his second start.

Random Walk (Super Saver—Lunargal, by Yes It’s True)

Although his pedigree might be geared more toward sprints, Random Walk is definitely one to watch in the major two-year-old races this year. Trained by Richard Violette, Jr., Random Walk flashed great speed in his debut at Belmont on June 3rd, setting fractions of :22.46 and :45.52 en route to a dominating 5 ¾-length victory in the time of 1:03.35 for 5 ½ furlongs. That was good for a Beyer speed figure of 90, the highest earned by any two-year-old so far this year, and has stamped him as the likely favorite for the Sanford Stakes (gr. III) on July 23rd at Saratoga.

Take Charge Tapit (Tapit—Christie Village, by Deputy Minister)

The latest member of the “Take Charge” family that includes Will Take Charge, Take Charge Brandi, Take Charge Indy, and Take Charge Lady, this unraced son of Tapit is owned in partnership by Willis Horton and Three Chimneys and is trained by the Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. An impressive grey colt that will be hard to miss when he starts racing, Take Charge Tapit has been breezing steadily at Churchill Downs and most recently went four furlongs in :48.20 on June 26th. Expect to see him make his debut very soon!

These are just a handful of the promising colts that we could see in action this summer—are there any that you have your eye on?

J. Keeler Johnson (also known as “Keelerman”) is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website and a regular contributor to and He can be found on Twitter at @J_Keelerman


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