11/22/2011 1:58PM

Rapid Redux eyes single-season win mark

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The only tension in Rapid Redux’s record-setting win on a wet Monday night at Mountaineer Racetrack came before the race even began. Balky and lashing out with his hind legs, Rapid Redux declined to be led into his starting stall for the eighth race, where he was the 1-9 favorite and, for a moment, the focal point of the racing world.

The starting gate crew, exercising patience, opened the front doors of the stall, and after one more mule kick, Rapid Redux went in. The latch sprang, jockey DeShawn Parker guided Rapid Redux to an easy lead, and that was all she wrote.

Never seriously challenge by anyone in a one-mile race that scratched down to four runners, Rapid Redux dominated still another $5,000 starter-allowance, winning by four lengths for his 20th straight victory and eclipsing the modern-day North American record of 19 consecutive wins held by Zenyatta and Peppers Pride. Rapid Redux, a 5-year-old Pleasantly Perfect gelding, also has won all 18 of his 2011 races, one short of the seasonal record held by Citation.

“I wished he could have run against more horses, but what can you do?” trainer David Wells, who has guided Rapid Redux through his winning odyssey, said Tuesday.

RELATED: Q&A with Rapid Redux trainer David Wells

Wells, reached by phone early Tuesday afternoon, was on his way back to his home base in Pennsylvania, where he will give Rapid Redux a careful going-over Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Wells said he told Parker to give Rapid Redux an easy trip if at all possible, since the horse could run back on short rest if Wells is pleased with the way he came out of his race. The goal of 20 straight victories reached, Wells and owner Robert Cole now would like the horse to win 20 races in 2011, which would eclipse Citation’s modern-day record of 19 wins in one year.

Wells said Rapid Redux had been pre-entered Monday in the Claiming Crown, to be held Dec. 3 at Fair Grounds, but the prospect of a long ship to unfamiliar territory does not especially appeal to him.

“It’s either a 20-hour drive or fly him,” said Wells. “We’re going to look into flights.”

Racing over a muddy, sealed racing strip Monday night, Rapid Redux hardly seemed to turn a hair. The filly Lady on Fire made a brief run at Rapid Redux around the far turn, but Rapid Redux repelled her without serious exertion and ran alone to the wire, going his mile in 1:40.04. Rapid Redux paid $2.20 to win and place, with show wagering cancelled.

Led into the Mountaineer winner’s circle where owner Cole, who claimed Rapid Redux for just $6,250 on Oct. 13, 2010, Wells and an entourage awaited, Rapid Redux got a quick picture, a cheer, and then was led away, back to the barn area, while Mountaineer, with no one on hand to conduct interviews with the winning connections, moved briskly on to their nightcap.

There was little drama to the race itself. Three of the eight entered horses were scratched earlier in the day, and a fourth, Spiritwood, was scratched with one minute to post time. Rapid Redux was going to be difficult to beat with the seven lined up; now, he seemed like a mortal lock. But that’s the mainly the way things have gone during Rapid Redux’s streak.

He’s been an odds-on favorite his last 14 starts – all but one a $5,000 starter-allowance – and has faced an average of only 4.5 opponents during his streak. And if Zenyatta was sometimes criticized for running up her streak against short fields of overmatched foes, Rapid Redux’s connections clearly have gone out of the way to keep their horse’s win skein alive. Yet the horse has managed to perform, race after race, for the last year now, rarely running below his typical form. Only two horses have come within a length of Rapid Redux during his streak – and for now, he stands alone, too, in the record books.