10/16/2011 10:10AM

Winter Memories Is Not A Machine; Rapid Redux, On The Other Hand ...

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Even after all these years, it never ceases to amaze how a horse can look so special on a number of occasions, and then suddenly pop up with an inexplicably mediocre performance, as Winter Memories did in Saturday’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland. It was hard to believe that the Winter Memories seen Saturday - the one who floundered through the stretch run with no late punch whatsoever after a wide, but clean trip - was the same one who destroyed her field despite an awful trip in the Lake George at Saratoga in July, or the one who produced one of the most impressive late kicks seen in recent years to win the Garden City last month at Belmont.

That, however, is what we got. The empty performance from Winter Memories, a filly who seemed on the cusp of being a real star, was, for me, just as big a story after the Q. E. II as was the victory by Together. And Together’s score was a good story because it had two interesting angles: For one, she was running back in only a week after finishing second against older grass females in Keeneland’s First Lady Stakes. When was the last time you saw a horse run in two Grade 1 races a week apart, AND do as well as Together did in them? The other interesting component to this story is Together provided her Ireland-based trainer Aidan O’Brien with his fifth U.S. Grade 1 victory this year. Even though one horse, Cape Blanco, accounted for three of those Grade 1’s, that’s still an incredible number when you consider that through Saturday, O’Brien had only 10 U.S. starts this year.

Barring anything untoward surfacing in the next couple of days, Jimmy Toner, the trainer of Winter Memories, probably hit on the most likely explanation for his filly’s loss Saturday immediately after the race. “I was telling Javier,” Toner told the Keeneland press staff, referring to Javier Castellano, Winter Memories’s jockey, “when they put in an exceptional run like she did last out, it sometimes takes more out of them than you realize. She was not as keen as she was before.”

In other words, not even Winter Memories is a machine, which makes what Rapid Redux is doing all the more impressive. It doesn’t matter that Rapid Redux is currently operating at the $5,000 starter allowance level, it is still a noteworthy achievement that this gelding was able to make it 18 straight victories with a score at Charles Town Friday night.

Now, it was a tiny bit disconcerting that Rapid Redux’s connections noted that their charge covered the nine furlongs Friday night in faster time than it took Fonda Ronda Won to win the $50,000 HBPA Governor’s Cup earlier on the card - 1:51.94 to 1:52.71 - inferring that Rapid Redux might have been able to win that stronger race. The fact is, Rapid Redux benefitted from a couple of late scratches, and he was able to lead through a leisurely pace, setting fractions of 48.81 and 1:14.32. If Rapid Redux had to contest the quicker fractions of the Governor’s Cup (48.46 and 1:13.21), he certainly wouldn’t have been able to finish quite as strongly. In any case, Rapid Redux is now only one win shy of equaling the 19 race win streaks held by Zenyatta and Peppers Pride.

Here are Rapid Redux’s career past performances. And what the heck, I threw in Zenyatta and Peppers Pride’s pps, too:

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