06/05/2012 4:00PM

Hovdey: For Reddam, a little karma couldn't hurt in Belmont

Barbara D. Livingston
Paul Reddam’s support section Saturday will include Beverly Lewis, owner of Silver Charm and Charismatic.

Paul Reddam, a racehorse owner of manageable superstitions, chose to look upon the victory of I’ll Have Another in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes earlier this year as a good omen. Among the perks of victory was a winner’s circle ceremony graced by the presence of Beverly Lewis, known far and wide as Bob’s better half and, since the death of her husband in 2006, the keeper of a considerable flame.

In winning the Lewis – actually Reddam’s second in the race – he allowed himself to imagine the good karma rubbing off. The Lewises won the 1997 Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm and the 1999 Derby with Charismatic, and both colts took the Preakness as well, setting up a run at two Triple Crowns in the span of three seasons.

“It was such an honor getting the trophy from Mrs. Lewis I was almost shaking,” Reddam said. “You always appreciate the Lewises from afar, for all they accomplished. But then when you see her up close you admire her even more.”

Lest anyone forget, I’ll Have Another was 43-1 when he took the Lewis. They could have quit while they were ahead. According to Reddam, he was alone on a limb that day in the face of reluctant vibes from trainer Doug O’Neill and his brother Dennis O’Neill, who found I’ll Have Another at a 2-year-old sale.

“Dennis pointed to the tote board while we were in the paddock,” Reddam said. “ ‘Look, 40-to-1. They’re telling us we don’t belong!’ Then he pulled the hood of his hoodie over his head.”

Now that I’ll Have Another has added the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, and Preakness to the Lewis, predictable interest is being shown in the colt.

“I’m not someone who’s going to entertain an offer to sell the horse for racing purposes,” Reddam said. “If the horse stays healthy I would love to race him as a 4-year-old. So all the stuff about a stud career can wait, as far as I’m concerned. I don’t know how it happened in my life, but I’m not in a position where I have to grab the money right now. Therefore I have a very different perspective.”

Reddam’s record of winning major races with stallion prospects is impressive. That the stallions have yet to catch fire is a function of something other than their ability on the racetrack.

Swept Overboard, Reddam’s Met Mile winner, was sold to Japanese interests. Red Rocks, his Breeders’ Cup Turf winner, is standing in Italy. Great Hunter, winner of the 2007 Robert Lewis Stakes, went to Venezuela. Spring at Last, winner of the Godolphin Mile, is at WinStar Farm, and Wilko, who upset the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, stands at Adena Farms in Kentucky.

“I love racing,” Reddam said. “It’s a lot more exciting to me to think that next year I’ll Have Another might be chasing the World Cup,or the Santa Anita Handicap versus, ‘Oh gee. He’s got 10 more mares.’ That doesn’t really get me going.”

After watching Silver Charm lose the 1997 Belmont by three-quarters of a length to Touch Gold, the Lewises raced the colt for two more seasons, winning the Dubai World Cup and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. Charismatic, on the other hand, lost the ’99 Belmont when he went wrong near the finish and settled for third. He never raced again.

“It was an unbelievable day,” Lewis said. “People were crying. The real victory was that he was saved.”

In the years since her husband’s death, Beverly Lewis has maintained a small stable with her son, Jeff. Their green and gold colors are no longer at the center of the American racing scene, but you wouldn’t know it to visit the Lewis home in Newport Beach, where reminders abound.

A portrait of Charismatic comes quickly into view, and he was a pretty colt, sort of a Secretariat starter kit, with a radiant chestnut coat and white highlights. His brush with the Triple Crown was both surprising and magical, given the brief period of time he was on center stage and the bittersweet manner in which he made his exit.

There, above the mantle, a portrait of the Silver Charm lords over the Lewis living room. The perspective is unique, portraying the gray colt and rider Gary Stevens returning to the stands from their victory in the Kentucky Derby, marking the day the sport understood that Bob and Beverly Lewis were here to stay.

“Don’t forget Commendable,” Lewis said.

Many have, but there he is, with his own grand portrait adorning a hallway wall, evidence that after two failed attempts to win the Belmont Stakes and with it the Triple Crown, Bob and Beverly Lewis finally took the elusive third leg in 2000, when Commendable, at 18-1 and coming off a 17th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, defeated Derby runner-up Aptitude at Belmont by 1 1/2 lengths.

“Bob and I didn’t make a big issue about the Triple Crown,” Lewis said. “We didn’t win. That was it. We didn’t win a lot of races. But we had a great time, all the success we had. I truly miss it.”

And if they’d won the Triple Crown? Would their lives have been forever changed?

“I don’t think so,” she said. “I supposed if anyone asked if you ever won the Kentucky Derby you could say, ‘Yes . . . and the Triple Crown.’ ”

After the Derby, Paul Reddam wandered back out on that limb and predicted the toughest of the two remaining races in the Triple Crown would be the Preakness, and that I’ll Have Another was bred to be a stone-cold Belmont winner.

“I hope those aren’t words I have to eat,” he said. “I liken it to a basketball team that’s played two big games on Tuesday and Wednesday, and now by some quirk of scheduling they’ve got to come back and play Thursday. If you were gambling, you wouldn’t love their chances on Thursday.

“But the outward indications are that the horse hasn’t lost any of his enthusiasm for training, after these races back to back,” Reddam said. “If there’s a change it would have to be subtle.”

For whatever it’s worth, the Robert Lewis effect got I’ll Have Another this far, as far as Silver Charm and Charismatic. From here on he’s on his own in his attempt to become racing’s 12th winner of the Triple Crown. And the woman who came close to winning two Triple Crowns will be there to offer Reddam support.

“My rooting for a horse isn’t going to help him any,” Lewis said. “If it’s going to happen it will happen. But I’ll certainly be down in the paddock to wish him luck. I wouldn’t miss this for the world.”