It’s safe to say Rapid Redux picked a good year to set the modern-day North American consecutive win record, because it has been one of those years: Good horses, good races, but no standouts. These things happen in horse racing; you move on and hope for something better the following year.
So a former claimer that feasted on starter allowance foes is one of the best stories of the racing year. There’s nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately the shot-takers made their presence felt online and through Twitter.
First things first: He won. Let's move and hope he sets another record.
People in this industry love to make comparisons even when they’re not based in reality. Yes, Rapid Redux isn’t Peppers Pride or Zenyatta. First of all, he’s male and they’re female. Secondly, Peppers Pride was a New Mexico-bred stakes filly, and Zenyatta a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and Horse of the Year.
But there appears to be some dislike for the fact a horse claimed for $6,250 last year now solely holds the consecutive win record. That’s tough to comprehend because Rapid Redux has taken nothing away from the two females with 19 consecutive victories. It’s a case of apples and oranges.
What the gelding has done, however, is set himself apart, and not just because he won one more consecutive race. It’s the manner in which he accomplished it.
Rapid Redux has won 20 races in a row in less than a year’s time; the streak started in early Deceember 2010. So through his Nov. 21 victory he had won a race about every 17.75 days. This is phenomenal, no matter what the class level.
Peppers Pride and Zenyatta won their races over the span of four racing seasons. Obviously you can’t find a state-bred stakes or graded stakes every 18 days, but Rapid Redux and his connections have a made a point, perhaps unwittingly: Sound horses can race frequently at their given level.
Picking spots for horses is a big part of the game, and owner Robert Cole Jr. and trainer David Wells did it masterfully during the record run. They had a little help of course, but that’s also part of the game.
Also, starter allowance races for horses that have started for a particular claiming price within a certain period of time usually are deceptively tough. There are individuals who excel at spotting horses ripe for these protected conditions and milking it. Credit goes to those who do.
After the gelding’s 20th win, Cole was asked about the thought and planning that went into each race. He gave the horse credit.
“We’ve all done a really good job, but the horse especially,” Cole said. “We’ve very blessed.”
There was some cherry-picking of spots, but the same could be said for Peppers Pride and Zenyatta. Again, it doesn’t diminish their accomplishments. Could they have raced more? If sound, absolutely, but we all know the common pattern these days: Train more, run less.
That’s what makes Rapid Redux so refreshing. His races are basically his workouts.
If there is any downside it’s the relative lack of strong industry promotion of the horse’s accomplishments. This is United States racing, which is about competition and gambling at all levels. The fact Rapid Redux is a glorified claiming horse shouldn’t matter. And his connections always make themselves available for interviews, so that's no excuse.
Also, the Nov. 21 race at Mountaineer somehow wasn’t shown live on TVG or HRTV. This is complicated. The networks make financial deals with racetracks to broadcast races, and those that don’t—well, that’s for another blog post. But deal or no deal, that race should have had maximum exposure.
Some of those who vote for the Eclipse Awards have indicated, perhaps jokingly, they will vote for Rapid Redux for Horse of the Year. He may get a few votes, but more likely he’ll be recognized by the industry in another way.
It’s funny Rapid Redux set the record at Mountaineer, the West Virginia track that was home to the late Dale Baird, who holds the all-time record for training wins at 9,445. A few years before his death, Baird was given a Special Eclipse Award for his accomplishments, basically a bone with no meat.
Parochialism won’t deny Rapid Redux an Eclipse Award; the honor is meant to recognize accomplishments at the highest level in racing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But it probably is keeping the all-time leading trainer with about 3,000 more victories than the second in line out of the Racing Hall of Fame.
For those of us that truly enjoy racing at all levels at all racetracks, Rapid Redux is a “horse of the year.” It’s all relative. And that’s what makes horse racing great.
He won. Give credit where it’s due.