11/10/2011 1:14PM

Q&A: Rapid Redux trainer David Wells

Mike Montgomery

The trainer of Rapid Redux, who won his 19th straight race Oct. 27 at Laurel, tying a mark set by Zenyatta and Peppers Pride.

Birthdate: June 15, 1964, in Wheeling, W.Va.

Family: son, Joshua; daughter, Nicole

Got into racing because . . . My dad, Don, was a trainer. He was training for Audley Farm when he was 18. There’s a win picture we have from when my mom was six months pregnant with me. So I kind of had no choice. I started working around the barn when I was 5 or 6 years old. It’s a lifestyle. You get up on Christmas morning and go to the barn.

What were your thoughts when Rapid Redux won his 19th straight race last month? I’m a mess anyway, a worrywart. I was nervous when Jamie Ness’s horse came up to him at the top of the lane. I thought he was going to go by. But he responded and came back on. I worry every race. I couldn’t get excited until he hit the wire.

When you and owner Robert Cole claimed Rapid Redux last year for $6,250, what were your hopes at the time? Robert is an excellent handicapper. He thought that, since the horse is by Pleasantly Perfect, he’s bred to go a mile and an eighth, a mile and a quarter, and he was sprinting. He thought he might do well going long. Rapid likes the program. He’s got a lot of back class. We did a minor throat surgery on him after he got beat. We scoped him and found that he was displacing. He hasn’t made any noise since. He paces himself. He can slow the pace down and pick it up again.

At what point in the streak did you start thinking of catching Zenyatta and Peppers Pride? After about 11 or 12 wins people started informing me about the record. Every race, so much can go wrong, it’s hard to think about something like that. Robert really got serious about it when we got to 15.

How nervous are you about trying to extend the streak? We’re looking at races at Laurel and Charles Town. Robert is from Maryland and is a big part of Maryland racing. They wrote him out of the book for the starter races at Penn National. These starter races are where he belongs right now. If he could win it, that would be awesome. I would like to see him go out on top, like win 20 or 21 races, and then I want to retire him at the end of the year. I don’t want him to get all sored up. I’m just being honest. I’d like him to go out on top.

There’s a point with these horses where you have to retire them before you wreck them. Obviously, he came with some issues. He was dropping from $15,000 to $6,250 for a reason. We dealt with those issues. I don’t know if Robert would agree with me, but that’s what I want to do with him.

What are your plans for him when he’s done racing? The Kentucky Horse Park has told me they would take him when he’s done racing.

What’s his personality like? He’s nice to be around. His class comes out. He’s really intelligent. But he’ll nip at you. When he leaves the barn, you’d better have a pony with him. He wants to take off and run. He’s gotten loose from his handlers twice. You’ve got to have two people walking him. I’ve got to give a lot of credit to his groom, Marirose Smith. She feeds him early, has his ice boots waiting when he comes off the track. She’s on top of everything. Amy Albright gets on him every morning. She’s an excellent hand. When she says he’s 110 percent, that’s when we enter. I’m able to read him really well right now. I wish I could read them all like that.

How long have you been training? I grew up around Mountaineer, around old horses, bottom-of-the-barrel types, that you had to patch up. I worked for Bryan Rice and his father, Clyde. I ran the shed row for Bryan for a couple of years at Penn National. I really learned a lot from them, and from working for my dad at Mountaineer. I was at Mountaineer until 1982, when I went to work at Penn National. When I first got to Penn National, I just galloped, and I also worked on the starting gate for 15 years, from 1987 to 2002. I had some horses I was training at Penn National that I would run at Mountaineer. They were coming out of races at a better track, and it helped me keep my stats high.

How many horses do you train? I’ve got about 30 now.

Are you based at Penn National? Yes. It’s great having year-round racing at Penn National.

Best horse trained? The best has been being a part of Rapid Redux.

Anybody every confuse you with the former major league pitcher with the same name? They do a lot, actually. Not that I look like him. But they ask me questions about him. It’s pretty hilarious. I just tell them I wish I was. He’s got millions. I don’t.

Hobbies? It’s kind of sad, but just horse racing. I’ve got five or six horses in my backyard, and 20 or 25 at the track. I don’t have an assistant or a bookkeeper, so there’s a lot to do. I do my own billing, do my own entries. Horses are my hobby. I enjoy going to the big races, like the Breeders’ Cup, the Kentucky Derby, and the Preakness. I took my vacation at the Breeders’ Cup, and I’m making plans to go next year.

Future ambitions? I love being a 30 percent trainer and 60 percent in the money. I’ve always been a high-percentage trainer. I think that means a lot. I just try to do the best job I can.