10/25/2011 3:27PM

Laurel: Rapid Redux shoots for number 19

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Charles Town
Rapid Redux, under J. D. Acosta, wins his 18th straight race Oct. 14 at Charles Town.

Rarely has a horse been so presciently named.

“Redux” – to be brought back, to be resurgent. That nails it. Again and again, Rapid Redux has come back a winner in starter-allowance races all over the eastern United States. He has won all 16 of his starts in 2011 and on Thursday at Laurel Park goes for his 19th straight victory, which would tie Peppers Pride and Zenyatta for the longest winning streak in modern Thoroughbred history.

Rapid Redux starts in race 6 (post time 3:37 p .m., Eastern), a $7,500 starter allowance that already has scratched down to a field of five. Rapid Redux is the 3-5 morning-line favorite, but trainer David Wells isn’t thinking slam-dunk. Jamie Ness, a 40-percent trainer at the Laurel meet, is boosting in class sharp last-out winner Rich Hero, and Wells worries over the seven-furlong distance, Rapid Redux’s first one-turn race in 12 starts.

“I’m worried I’ve taken all the speed out of him,” Wells said.

Nonetheless, Rapid Redux boards a Laurel-bound van about 8 a.m. Thursday at Penn National. Wells and a mini-entourage will follow along in a rented limousine, just like when Rapid Redux shipped to Charles Town on Oct. 14 for his 18th straight. Owner Robert Coles, who claimed Rapid Redux for $6,250 last Oct. 13, is a resident of Laurel.

Wells might be sweating the small stuff. Rapid Redux’s last one-turn start also was over seven furlongs at Laurel, and he won comfortably. The streak includes wins at seven venues and seven distances, and only twice have the wins come by less than one length. Moreover, Rapid Redux’s recent training suggests a horse still in good form.

Wells takes Rapid Redux to his farm – about a mile away from Penn National – for four or five days rest after every start. Then it’s back to Penn, where Rapid Redux stays fit through jogs, stern gallops, and occasional fast work at the end of a gallop. Usually, the quicker final portion of exercise produces a three-furlong time of about 38 seconds. Saturday, Rapid Redux covered that distance – after galloping 1 1/4 miles – in 36.80 seconds.

“We couldn’t get him pulled up,” said Wells. “I was real impressed after as much as he’s done this year.”

Cole and Wells won a first-level allowance race with Rapid Redux two weeks after he was claimed, but three weeks later, Rapid Redux finished eighth and was found to have displaced his soft palate, cutting off his air. He was sent for surgery to repair the breathing problem, and has not, his trainer said, required significant veterinary intervention since.

Rapid Redux can be nippy, but basically does fine in the barn. On the track, he has his quirks, turning sideways at unfamiliar sounds. A 5-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding, he goes with a stable pony to keep him contained. Some days he’s trained in a lip cord. He races in blinkers.

Wells believes Rapid Redux is smart. There are days when he prefers jogging to galloping. His handlers generally accede to his wishes. Redux knows best.

The intelligence mixes with an obviously powerful will to win, a characteristic apparent in Rapid Redux’s testing half-length win Aug. 22 at Thistledown in Ohio, the farthest afield Rapid Redux strayed during the streak.

“He had five weeks off between races, and we were having trouble with his weight, training him light for that race,” Wells said. “I woke him up at 2 in the morning to make that trip. He didn’t sleep, he didn’t eat, he didn’t drink much water when he got there. He was out of horse at the three-sixteenths pole.”

That sort of determination combined with remarkable consistency makes Rapid Redux compelling. No year-end Breeders’ Cup goals for this horse. No million dollar races. But a chance to put his name in the record books on a Thursday afternoon in Maryland.