Enter Rapid Redux.
Starting on December 2, 2010, a day when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was hotter than a Lady Gag concert, Rapid Redux won a horse race at Penn National for trainer David Wells and owner Robert Cole.
Rapid Redux has since won 17 more races ... in a row ... that makes 18. One more ties him with Pepper’s Pride, and, yes, Zenyatta for the longest win streak in North American horse racing.
So even with Randall Flagg’s Eye focusing its attention on Churchill Downs for a singular day of racing, this Thursday at Laurel Park should be a smash. Since when will this much attention rain on a seven-furlong $20,000 starter allowance? This isn’t exactly Tim Tebow-type attention, but at least this horse won’t waste everyone’s time for 55 minutes.
“I am very excited but cautious,” Cole said. “I know one day he is going to get beat. I just hope it isn’t Thursday.”
Rapid Redux won races at seven different tracks including Laurel Park and the Timonium Fair Grounds. And get this: he’s 16-for16 ... this year. Since December 2, 2010, he’s run 17 times in 11 months for 1.5 starts a month. This horse is more durable than Cal Ripken, Jr. and has better tires than the Michelin Man. He’s got more range than Pavarotti winning races from five furlongs all the way to nine. And he's won all these races by a combined 84 lengths ... and a nose.
I sat down with Cole five years ago while researching my unpublished book “On the Backside” on Maryland Millions Day. He could have been an owner featured in “Lord of Misrule.” He’s a wheeler and a dealer, claim him here, race him here, value’s high? Be willing to lose him here. Though he claimed Rapid Redux, he rapidly found out that here was a horse he could make some bank on.
Rapid Redux cost Cole $6,250, the price of three nice laptops, or a Chevy Cobalt. He has since gone on to earn $225,609. You do the math.
He lets his trainers do the training, but he admits he’s damn good at reading Daily Racing Form. No wonder why he likes his chances in two days.
Cole led all owners in 2008 with 234 wins and is currently fourth in wins at Laurel with 4 from 16 starts during the fall meet.
Naturally, every win Rapid Redux notches gets more and more thrilling. He’s no Zenyatta. He’s not Pepper’s Pride. He won’t make the cover of Sports Illustrated like Smarty Jones or Mine That Bird (but he’s won more races than they have combined). Still, at a time when big trainers make all the headlines, here’s a horse owned by a regional star and trained by a guy who’s best known for sharing the same name of a former Major League Pitcher, to change the tone of the racing landscape.
“I didn’t even know about this record until he got to about 10 or 12 wins and people started talking about it,” said Cole. “I never thought it was reachable because you need to have so much good luck. We are fortunate to have a shot at tying it but just because we won 18 in a row doesn’t mean you automatically win the 19th. Anybody can have a bad day. I am definitely not counting my chickens before they hatch.”
Brendan O'Meara is the author of "Six Weeks in Saratoga." He is currently working on one of those memoirs: "The Last Championship: Beards, Beer Bellies, Laugh Lines, and the Greatest Tournament the World has Never Known."