By Bill Mooney
All systems remain fully on “go” for Rapid Redux's quest for a record 20th consecutive victory at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack on Monday evening. The five-year-old gelding is 1-to-9 in the morning line for the one-mile, $14,900 starter allowance event. With DeShawn Parker aboard, he'll break from the seven post in the field of eight.
“His appetite's great, and he's really sharp,” said trainer David J. Wells from his base at Penn National Race Course near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. “Our exercise rider, Amy Albright, will jog Rapid Redux a mile at Penn National on Monday morning. That's our usual procedure on days he races. We'll put him on the van for the trip to Mountaineer at about 9 a.m.”
The trip will take about five hours. Wells's assistant trainer, Harvey Blue Jr., will do the driving. Rapid Redux's groom, Maryrose Smith, will also accompany him. Wells and Rapid Redux's owner, Robert L. Cole Jr. from Maryland, will arrive at Mountaineer later in the afternoon.
Rapid Redux's path to national notice – on Monday he could become the first North American Thoroughbred to win 20 consecutive races in at least 111 years – has had curious twists and turns,. He was bred in Kentucky by Fortress Pacific Equine LLC, an outfit headed by Anna Maslen of Kirkland, Washington.
Consigned to the 2007 Keeneland September Yearling Sale via Taylor Made Sales Agency, Rapid Redux had a different name back then – Storm Leopard. He was purchased for $85,000 by trainer Kelly Breen for George and Lori Hall of New Jersey. Lori Hall names all of the couple's horses, and she apparently concluded that “Rapid Redux” would be a better fit.
This past June, the Halls won the Belmont Stakes with Ruler On Ice, who is also trained by Breen. But the Halls had less success with Rapid Redux, although Breen does recall that as a youngster his potential appeared to be considerable.
“He was high-strung, but he had a lot of guts,” Breen said. “I'd gallop Rapid Redux myself in the mornings, and I could just feel his ability. As time went on we realized he had a breathing problem, and we weren't sure that surgery would improve things.”
Rapid Redux broke his maiden at second asking at Monmouth Park on June 2, 2008 – he was the even-money favorite and led wire to wire. His next start came in a stakes, the $59,150 Tyro at 5 ½ furlongs at Monmouth. Only three horses went to the post. Rapid Redux finished third, beaten 14 ¾ lengths.
During the following 24 months, Rapid Redux made his way (mostly downward) through the claiming ranks. He showed no consistency – he either would finished first or, more often than not, well off the board. In mid summer of 2010, he was obtained by owner/trainer Kevin J. Fields in what appears to have been a private transaction. Three starts later, he was claimed by Wells for Cole for a $6,250 tag at Penn National.
Cole, now age 48, ranked tenth among North American owners in purse earnings with $3.14 million in 2006; and he led the North America owner standings in wins with 234 in 2008. He's reduced his Thoroughbred holdings in more recent years.
But Cole's always still searching for a good horse, and he liked what he saw in Rapid Redux's pedigree and past performances. “They had been running him short, but he's bred to go long,” Cole said.
The breathing problem? “A minor throat situation – a displaced palate,” said Wells. “It took the most minimal of procedures to fix it. I think Rapid Redux missed only three days of training.”
Rapid Redux's consecutive win streak commenced at Penn National in early December of last year. If he wins on Monday, it will be his 20th triumph in 355 calendar days, which averages out to one win every 17.75 days – in itself, an extraordinary statistic. During his streak, Rapid Redux has accumulated $217,809 in purse earnings.
His breathing difficulties are history. “But we're always a little bit concerned about Rapid Redux's feet,” Wells said. “The walls of his feet are thin, and we don't want to put nails in them. Rapid Radux wears glue-on shoes. He'll have a set of those on when he runs at Mountaineer on Monday.”
There will be a lot of people rooting for him, Kelly Breen among them. “Twenty in a row? It's hard to win two in a row,” said Breen. “I'm not sure where I'll be on Monday evening. But if it's not near a television monitor, I'll certainly dial up the replay on my computer the following morning. I want to see Rapid Redux do it.”
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