Rapid Redux wins 22nd straight race

LAUREL, Md. — Rapid Redux extended his winning streak to 22 with a well-earned, three-quarter length victory over Awesome Rhythm in a 1-mile race at Laurel Park.

The victory on Wednesday occurred hours after the 6-year-old gelding was chosen to receive a special Eclipse Award for his perfect 19-0 record last year.

Rapid Redux was nearly scratched from the race on Tuesday after trainer David Wells discovered a small cut on the horse's right foot. A day later, Wells told owner Robert Cole all was well, and Rapid Redux went out and did what he does best.

It wasn't easy on a day temperatures were around freezing. He faced only four challengers — including 10-year-old gelding Gold Casing — after three others were scratched.

Ridden by J.D. Acosta, Rapid Redux took the lead just after the start and held off Awesome Rhythm for the second straight race. Gold Casing was third.

"That stretch is long," Wells said, adding he was nervous in the final yards. "He was tired. He's got so much heart. I can't take the credit — it's the horse."

Cole, who claimed the horse in October 2010, said he'd like to keep the horse running as long as possible.

"If he's healthy, he's going to run," Cole said.

"I don't think it meant a lot to win one more at this point. We want to run it for us — the public — and everyone else involved. If we think he's got a 75 percent chance of winning, we're going to run him — and that's what we felt today."

Rapid Redux last lost on Nov. 18, 2010. Since the streak began, he has raced at seven different tracks and with seven different riders. Acosta has ridden him more than anyone else — eight times.

Acosta was keeping a close eye on Awesome Rhythm, who was chasing him throughout the race.

"Having this horse right next to me, I could feel him breathing on my back the whole time. I had some competition today," Acosta said.

Veteran trainer Shirota dies at 78

Veteran trainer and retired jockey Mitch Shirota, whose training career spanned more than three decades and included stakes wins in the Grade I Top Flight at Aqueduct and a memorable Kentucky Derby Day stakes win at Churchill Downs, died Wednesday in Louisville.

Mr. Shirota had been hospitalized since Monday, but had endured a lengthy illness. He was 78.

Mr. Shirota was a gregarious resident of the Churchill Downs stable area known by friends for his sharp, and occasionally biting, wit. But he possessed considerable talent as a horseman. Equibase statistics, which have been compiled since 1976, show that Shirota saddled 236 winners from 1,637 career starters, and his horses collected career earnings of $5,692,466. He won 79 races from 676 starts at Churchill Downs with earnings at his home track of $2,065,573.