Photo: Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club
On an otherwise ordinary day at Laurel Park, racing fans gathered at the track, if they were lucky enough, or at their computers in order to see history being made. Granted, racing history generally is not made during the week when most races on the card are claiming or allowance races, but that is exactly what happened today. Race 6 on the card of 9 featured Rapid Redux, the blue collar horse that has raced his way not only into the hearts of the fans but also into the record books. It was just three short weeks ago that the Iron Horse, as many are calling him, defeated a depleted field and broke the modern North American record for most consecutive wins. The previous record was 19 set by Peppers Pride and equaled by Zenyatta. Today, Rapid Redux won his 21st consecutive race and 19th race in one calendar year. With today’s win, Rapid Redux equaled Citation’s record for most races won in a calendar year.
There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that today was all about Rapid Redux. Before the five-year old Pleasantly Perfect gelding could even step onto the track, him and his connections were already stopping and posing for photographs. Once on the track, the gelding warmed up like a professional, but his flair for the dramatic took over again at the gate. Just like in his last race, Rapid Redux was reluctant to load and needed urging to step in and wait for the rest of the field. Once the gelding was sure that all eyes were on him, he loaded quietly. The start was good for all, and jockey J.D. Acosta hustled his charge out of the gate from the inside post position and straight to the lead. He set moderate fractions of 24.36 for the opening quarter and 48.13 for the half. In the stretch, Rapid Redux opened up a 3 length advantage when called upon and looked clear approaching the wire; however, Awesome Rhythm closed quickly in the final strides to shorten Rapid Redux’s winning margin to a half a length. It looked like it would be close at the end, but, despite the final winning margin, the Big Fish never lost control of the race and had plenty left to fend off Awesome Rhythm, even after Acosta dropped his stick. No Brakes was a non-threatening third followed in order of finish by First Nite, Shamroge, and Zosogood. Rapid Redux returned $2.60, $2.40, and $2.10 and stopped the clock at 1:45.08 for the mile and one sixteenth race.
In the winner’s circle, trainer David Wells and owner Robert Cole were reminded of the significance of the day. When asked if they would try for the record for wins in a calendar year, the commentator first had to repeat the question before he could get an answer. Once Wells was refocused, he stated that they would try to beat Citation’s record only if Rapid Redux told them that he was ready to go.
Now that Rapid Redux owns the modern record for most consecutive wins and has tied the record for most wins in a calendar year, the question of how he should be rewarded still lingers. It has been proposed that he should be placed on the Eclipse Award ballot for at least Champion Older Male if not Horse of the Year, but elitists have declared that he does not belong on the ballots because he has not faced the nation’s top competition. He has been nominated for the Secretariat ‘Vox Populi’ award, an award that gives recognition to the horse that generated the most fan response during the year. By that criteria, Rapid Redux certainly qualifies and should be one of the top contenders for the award. If he wins it, that would be great, but I personally believe that that is not enough for the horse that has shown the world that a blue blood pedigree is not required in order to accomplish great things. Popularity does not always equal great success, but the opposite is generally true.
To honor Rapid Redux for his accomplishments, I propose the creation of a new award: the ‘Iron Horse’ award. The ‘Iron Horse’ award would be an annual award given to the horse that has set himself apart in some way. Its main purpose would be to award a horse that would otherwise have been overlooked. In a lot of ways, the award would be almost like the ‘Vox Populi’ award, but what happens when a remarkable horse comes along during a year when there is an extremely popular stakes caliber horse? Well, if Rapid Redux had accomplished all that he has last year, then he would have gone largely unrecognized due to the popularity Zenyatta garnered. In the case of Rapid Redux, he set himself apart by breaking one record and tying another. He has raced every 17 days on average and has been sound all year long. He may or may not win the ‘Vox Populi’ award, but if the ‘Iron Horse’ award existed, he would be the clear winner. He truly has been an ‘Iron Horse’ this year.