I took some time recently to contemplate and compile my thoughts on the whole Rapid Redux story.
There are some (naturally) biased opinions I have on this topic of the amazing win streak put together by this horse.
After all, I come from the land of Peppers Pride, another accomplished thoroughbred placed under the microscope for her tremendous win streak, which resulted in her retiring with an unblemished record.
Her achievements were scoffed at by many outside the state of New Mexico.
She raced only in the state of New Mexico…. She raced only against state-breds… She was beating vastly inferior competition.
These facts were stated loudly and clearly over and over again, especially in the timeframe in which Peppers Pride raced, which was around the same time another accomplished older filly was climbing the ladder towards immortality.
You may have heard of her… she was named Zenyatta.
The mere mention of the two fillies names in the same sentence drew the ire of racing puritans, who thought there was absolutely no way to even associate the two racehorses in any way.
So here we are, several years removed from the virtually untold story of Peppers Pride, mixed in with the drama and spectacle of Zenyatta, and here we are again, still challenging the spectre by which we gauge an undefeated season or undefeated career.
Luckily for most of us, Rapid Redux tasted defeat (many times) before embarking on this historic win streak. We don’t have to be screamed at incessantly by equine purists and over-reactionary fans who will claim Zenyatta as their own celebratory pet.
With that formality neatly tucked away, we can focus instead on the larger question facing many racing scribes and those of us who are paid to have an opinion on the matter.
Does Rapid Redux have a claim to be horse of the year in 2011?
The answer is simple.
The achievements this year by Rapid Redux are even more inferior to those in the worst year of Peppers Pride’s campaign.
Rapid Redux may have logged more travel miles, may have faced open company and might have even been more impressive in some of his wins. Those points are all highly debatable.
What is not at all at question here is the legitimacy of Rapid Redux’s accomplishments.
Taken to comparison with college football, another athletic endeavor in which the quality of your opponents often disguises talent for fraud, Rapid Redux is, at best, a Division 3 school facing other Division 3 schools.
He’s not even fit for discussion with slightly better schools. His unbeaten season, while remarkable, is being accomplished against a level of competition that couldn’t be disguised as anything but cheap and unproductive.
I use the college football argument as it struck me as ironic that some of my sports-minded friends and colleagues were upset recently that some college football players were not receiving any favorable mention for the Heisman Trophy among writers and members of the media.
Two of those players in particular, Case Keenum of the University of Houston and Kellen Moore from Boise State, both put up gaudy numbers this past season.
Both were very impressive, and both played on teams that suited their style of play, which is to say it was up-tempo and very vertical.
All offense and no defense.
Those quarterbacks thrived under those circumstances.
When faced with the challenge of facing better competition, week in and week out, eventually both of these quarterbacks’ flaws became exposed, and both fell under the weight of their own shallow pool of talent, but it wasn’t in epic fashion against better company, it was against teams that were considered inferior.
Which is precisely why both Houston and Boise State chose those teams as competition to begin with.
Which is why, ultimately, neither quarterback was even considered a finalist for this year’s Heisman Trophy.
Rapid Redux, likewise, should not be rewarded historically as anything more than a simple notation in a record book.
A trivia answer.
A freak against nothing more than an average bunch of plodders.
I have no dog in the fight as to the real horse of the year is in 2011. If I had a say in the matter, I’d say Havre de Grace, but again, I don’t really care.
There are greater questions to ponder.
Who’s winning the next race at XYZ Downs?
Which carryover should I tackle tomorrow?
Do I start the Bengals defense or the Cardinals defense this weekend in my fantasy football matchup?
Red or white wine?
Is it Chanukkah or Hanukkah? I can never get a straight answer on that one.
But in the land of misunderstood racing records that I will always put on the same scale of Zenyatta, if Peppers Pride’s achievements were seen as such a monumental waste of time compared to the body of work on the “greatest racemare of all time”, then Rapid Redux deserves the same lack of complete and utter disregard.
And yes, I did bet on Blame in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and I loved every minute of it.
Long live Peppers Pride being in the Hall of Fame!