Possibly, a quiet understanding exists that Eclipse Champions are exclusively found in the graded arena of racing. And, just as likely, Rapid Redux isn’t the least bit concerned about class wars with the graded fields. He seems focused on one single goal that isn’t controlled by Eclipse Award voting – winning his next race in any field.
Since December of 2010, Rapid Redux has been simply showing up at small tracks, facing rivals with similar blue-collar resumes, and grinding out victory after victory without the fuss of fancy awards or winning garlands. He could have had a nearly invisible career, like many of his counterparts, if it weren’t for his quest to capture a prized historical jewel in the racing world – the modern North American record for winning more consecutive races than any other horse in the sport.
There is something about Rapid Redux that makes me wish there was an Eclipse Award for such a horse. Because, ultimately, the working-class gelding is the type of guy that breathes life into the average race card on any given day at various tracks across the country. Eighty-five percent of racehorses are running in claiming races on an annual basis in North America. And, I am sure that nearly every owner and trainer with a horse among that 85 percent would happily take Rapid Redux into their stable without any questions about his ability to climb the class ladder in the future.
Yet, when it comes down to the Eclipse Awards, class seems to matter deeply when we choose our champions. And, though it would be tough to find an owner who would turn down an offer to purchase Rapid Redux for his last claiming price of $6,250, many of the same folks would probably never entertain the thought that he may deserve an Eclipse Award. This sport looks toward graded fields when crowning its champions, and, as for the claiming horses, they need to climb the ladder of class to have a shot during Eclipse Award season.
However, Rapid Redux may be doing something revolutionary in refusing to go beyond claiming and allowance territory while targeting the modern record for consecutive victories in North American racing; he is simply ignoring the traditional criteria of what makes a “champion” racehorse. In doing so, the gelding showcases the enormous heart of the blue-collar racehorse in capturing victory-upon-victory while brilliantly turning the sword on his critics with every winning stride toward the record. It is as if he is defying the very idea that “champions” don’t exist in the lower levels of racing.
In my view, Rapid Redux is a champion racehorse in his own right. No, he isn’t the kind that wins graded outings or millions of dollars. Rather, he is the kind of “champion” that exists where the bulk of trainers, grooms, hot walkers and various other individuals in racing make their living in this sport. He is the “champion” that races in fields where middle class owners can afford more than a small percentage of a racehorse. And further, he is the kind of “champion” that gives smaller owners the feeling of having a winning horse where they could not participate in this sport if they had to spend dizzying dollars to get in the game.
There is something about Rapid Redux that makes me wish that there was an Eclipse Award that the majority of participants in racing could strive to win. Because, without horses like Rapid Redux, the tracks would become cathedrals to the fifteen percent of participants who are extremely wealthy, extraordinary lucky, or to individuals who are extraordinarily lucky to work for someone who is extremely wealthy. And, in my view, racing would lose its heart that day.
Whether or not Rapid Redux reaches his magic number of twenty consecutive victories, he will remain a “champion” even if he stops at nineteen races and never ventures into graded territory. He is simply a different kind of champion; a blue-collar Champion that delivered a captivating number of victories, at seven different tracks, for small purses and little recognition until he started swirling around a coveted record in big-league racing. There is class to any horse that can accomplish that feat, whether the outings are graded, televised or simply everyday claiming and allowance races.
Yes, there is plenty about Rapid Redux that makes me wish there was an Eclipse Award for him this season. And no, it doesn’t have to be “Horse of the Year.” The “Horse of the Year” award wouldn’t serve the spirit of a horse like him anyway, because, in large part, claimers and allowance horses don’t simply retire after one exemplary year. They keep going, year after year, in a quest for more victories and more earnings to help support the everyday workers in this industry.
There should be an award for a horse like Rapid Redux to claim at the claiming level – An Eclipse Award. Because there are “champions” at all levels of racing, just as there are fans at all levels of this sport. And, as a fan of all levels of racing, Rapid Redux is the horse of my year.
Photo of Rapid Redux provided courtesy of Victoria Solzbach.