02/28/2017 6:41PM

Mardi Gras Stakes one big party for Rapid Rhythm

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Rapid Rhythm (left), with James Graham aboard, rallies from last to win the Mardi Gras Stakes and remain unbeaten in Fair Grounds turf sprints.

Rapid Rhythm is so good in Fair Grounds turf sprints they apparently decided to have a parade for her when she won the $74,250 Mardi Gras Stakes on Tuesday in New Orleans.

In March 2015, Rapid Rhythm won her career debut, a turf sprint on the Fair Grounds grass course. Nine starts and almost a year later - and having moved into the barn of trainer Mike Stidham - Rapid Rhythm won the second time she sprinted on turf at Fair Grounds, capturing a conditioned claimer. Last March, she won another Fair Grounds turf sprint; in December she won the $50,000 Battle of New Orleans, a Fair Grounds turf sprint; and on Tuesday, rallying wide under James Graham, Rapid Rhythm won Mardi Gras Stakes, bringing her Fair Grounds turf-sprint record to five tries and five wins.

“That’s what makes her so special: She knows where the wire is, and she wants to win,” said Hilary Pridham.

Pridham is Stidham’s assistant trainer and Rapid Rhythm’s regular morning rider. She calls the mare her favorite horse in the large operation.

The Mardi Gras, at about 5 1/2 furlongs, unfolded at a slow tempo, with Loveable Lyss and Clairenation alternating on the lead through splits of 22.60 and 46.22. Rapid Rhythm and James Graham were last of eight, which would have been a tough spot except for the fact Rapid Rhythm, as noted, is unbeatable in Fair Grounds turf sprints.

From the inside out the pace horses began wilting at the three-sixteenths pole as outside closers asserted themselves. Wheatfield, who was stalking four or five wide around the turn, took the lead a furlong out, with Simple Surprise, who was even wider around the bend, chasing her. But there came Rapid Rhythm, reaching and reaching until she had found the wire.

“She gives you a little bit more, a little bit more, and she’s always running at the wire,” said Graham.

Wheatfield finished second, two lengths in front of Simple Surprise, who was a nose better than Blip n’ the Bye. Rapid Rhythm ran about 5 1/2 furlongs on a firm course in 1:03.73 and paid $4.60 as the favorite.

Rapid Rhythm is a 5-year-old by Successful Appeal out of Patriot Miss, by Quiet American. Bred in Virginia by Lazy Lane Farms, she’s owned by Robert Evans, and ran her career record to 8-1-1 from 19 starts. And had they all come in Fair Grounds turf sprints, Rapid Rhythm might never have lost.