06/28/2006 11:00PM

Getting his money's worth

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - If August Belmont could win the Belmont Stakes, and if C.V. Whitney could win the Whitney Handicap, why can't J. Paul CashCall win the first running of the $750,000 CashCall Mile on Saturday at Hollywood Park?

Sorry about that. Make the name J. Paul Reddam, founder of CashCall, who stands as good a chance as any to take home the $450,000 winning piece of the CashCall Mile prize with his 4-year-old filly Dancing Edie.

A daughter of Moscow Ballet, Dancing Edie comes off a game second in the May 29 Gamely Handicap over the Hollywood grass. She will need to be at her very best again to handle a CashCall field that includes Gamely winner Shining Energy, Japanese star Dance in the Mood, East Coast ace Sweet Talker, and the soaring Cambiocorsa, a winner of seven straight.

No matter how Dancing Edie runs, though, Reddam can only come out a winner. His CashCall banner has been spread all over the current Hollywood Park meet. A number of jockeys wear the CashCall name on their pants. The racetrack itself has become a virtual advertising partner in CashCall's business of quick loans at high interest that are high-risk and unsecured.

As for CashCall, it has done about everything short of putting spokes-celebrity Gary Coleman in riding breeches and silks on its ubiquitous TV commercials. The CashCall website touts a $5 betting voucher giveaway with every paid admission at Hollywood on Saturday. As many as 10 current CashCall customers could have their loans paid off in full if they are among the 10 lucky names drawn during the day.

This alone may be worth a trip to the races, since CashCall's loans - most of them $5,000 or $10,000 - charge interest rates as high as 44 percent, amortized over 10 years, according to the company website. Whether or not this appears to be fair is hardly the point. CashCall is the only lender - other than Big Louie on the corner - willing to loan as much as $20,000 without the protection of a home, a car, or some other high-end piece of collateral. The company estimates a default rate of about 20 percent, and since Reddam founded the company in 2003, more than $200 million has been loaned.

Anyway, CashCall stands as a shining beacon of integrity alongside another recent high-profile sponsor of a major Hollywood Park race. Between 1999 and 2001, Sempra Energy of San Diego had its name firmly attached to the Hollywood Gold Cup and its logo displayed prominently at the track.

This is the same Sempra Energy alleged to have manipulated the perception of power capacities during high usage periods in California during 2000 and 2001, leading to blackouts, brownouts, and increased utility rates. Sempra Energy settled separate lawsuits in Nevada for $30 million and in the San Diego market for $350 million, but looming still is a suit in the "hundreds of millions" filed last November by California Attorney General Bill Lockyear in which Sempra is described as manipulating electricity prices "through widespread playing of Enron games."

Sponsorship of major races is so common these days that no one hardly notices when sponsors come and go. And, thank goodness, there is not usually a public relations backfire, such as the Sempra involvement (even Hollywood Park was among the Sempra customers suffering a power cutback during the summer of 2001).

The Breeders' Cup Classic has been sponsored at various times by Mobil, Chrysler, and Dodge, while the Breeders' Cup Turf has been backed by John Deere, Budweiser, First Jersey Securities, and DeBeers Consolidated Mines.

Churchill Downs provided grist for wisecracks this year by signing with Yum! Brands to "present" the Kentucky Derby. This was neither more nor less weird than the Epsom Derby once handing itself over to Eveready Batteries. The Arlington Million was for many years the Budweiser Million, Ford Pinto put its name on a single running of Hollywood's Invitational Turf Handicap, and the Marlboro Cup was always the Marlboro Cup, until Phillip Morris lost interest in 1987, after 15 runnings. Then the race was canceled.

Reddam, who signed a three-year deal with Hollywood to sponsor the CashCall Mile, is an exception to the rule when it comes to sponsors, who usually know little or nothing about the game. The Reddam racing stable is well established, and his colors have been carried to victory in major races by the likes of Ten Most Wanted, Wilko, Swept Overboard, and Elloluv. There is very little chance of Reddam losing interest in the race he has helped create.

"I think the first company to sponsor a race at Hollywood Park was Miller High Life in the late 1960's," recalled Nat Wess, formerly a publicist with Hollywood. "It was the Miller High Life Premiere Handicap on opening day, and when I woke up that morning it was raining. They didn't really get what they expected."

Of course they didn't. They needed beer weather. Fast money, for better or worse, would seem to be a product for all seasons, and right at home at the races.