Horse racing’s stars are the Triple Crown thoroughbreds and those who can capture big-stakes races such as the Kentucky Derby for six- and seven-figure winnings.
Rapid Redux isn’t that kind of horse.
No, he’s just a 5-year-old who just wins. Rapid Redux has won 20 in a row and 21 of 22. On Tuesday at nearby Laurel Park, Rapid Redux will try to tie the modern U.S. record for wins in a year with 19, a mark set by the great Citation in 1948. But it was a little more than a year ago when he had barely won anything — until a turn of events took him from just another horse in a sea of losers to the record books with the longest streak ever put together on American soil.
Rapid Redux was running for tiny purses of $5,000 in company with other horses that hadn’t won much.
“He’s not that great, and he never was,” trainer David Wells said. “That’s the bottom of the barrel.”
Since climbing up from that bottom, Rapid Redux has crushed inferior horses along the way, something that typically in sports doesn’t make overpowering winners all that popular. But the gelding’s impressive run of success and popularity is predicated on just how far he has come in 14 months and what Wells called the “consistency” of never really having a bad race.
Wells claimed Rapid Redux for owner Robert Cole on Oct. 13, 2010 for just $6,520. It doesn’t get much cheaper than that to acquire a horse — but this group saw something in him that made him worth the money. Wells wanted to stretch out Rapid Redux from sprints to longer races, but winning wasn’t consistent until a bad race revealed a throat ulcer and required an operation known as a tenectomy that helped him get more air to his lungs.
“We’re all mammals — if we can’t breathe, we can’t run,” Cole said. “He had the speed that was required to get the lead, and now he could breathe and have the conditioning from the trainer to hold his speed for a mile-plus.”
Rapid Redux hasn’t lost since — 20 straight victories that helped him pass female champion Zenyatta and Pepper’s Pride for the longest winning streak by a horse in North American racing history. He finally started showing some of his pedigree; his father, Pleasantly Perfect, captured the 2003 and 2004 Breeders Cup’ Classic and the 2004 Dubai World Cup, the richest race in the world.
His owner and trainer make no argument that along the way Rapid Redux has taken advantage of a unique starter condition that allows him to be in races against horses not nearly as good. He was a 1-to-9 favorite in a four-horse field to break the last record and is 3-to-5 Tuesday in the sixth race at Laurel Park to make more history.
But they make no apologies about him “beating up” on lesser competition.
“He’s a lot better than really all of the horses he’s faced,” said Cole, who has been the prime beneficiary as Rapid Redux has raked in $202,894 so far in 2011. “You put the horses in spots where they could excel. And we felt like we had him in the right places where he could do some damage.”
That’s exactly what Rapid Redux has done during this streak of victories at seven different tracks with 10 different jockeys. As he has cruised along with few problems other than some heat difficulty over the summer, Cole and Wells are level-headed about Rapid Redux’s success but don’t think his success in small-purse races against inferior horses should tarnish the accomplishment.
Instead, they point to generations of breeding that have taken sacrificed durability for speed, and Wells credited Rapid Redux’s upbringing for making him run consistently well like a horse from the 1940s, ‘50s or ‘60s — a golden age of racing.
“He’s a throwback and really not matchable in modern times,” Cole said. “There isn’t any horse you can look at out of the tens of thousands of horses in the United States, there isn’t anyone comparable that has won this much this often all in a certain time frame. That’s where his greatness is.”
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