12/12/2008 12:00AM

Reddam's hopeful, but he's no fool


You've got to be crazy to run a maiden in a Grade 1 race, right? Grade 1 means only the best need apply. It's not for the faint of heart or weak in pedigree. "No riff-raff" reads the fine print on the entry slip.

Then along comes that happy day when a Grade 1 race seems to be just dangling out there, heavy fruit on a low branch, begging to be plucked by anyone passing by. Such is the temptation offered on Saturday in the Hollywood Starlet, a 1 1/16-mile main track event that bears not only that cherished Grade 1 honorific, but a share of a $429,000 purse to boot.

The empresarios in charge have found seven representatives of the 2006 foal crop to participate. While it is not polite to whisper, rumor has it that not one of them has ever won a graded stakes, let alone a Grade 1. But that's okay. It's late in the year, and the energy from the 2-year-old filly division has been drained by two separate Breeders' Cup races, along with the recent Miesque Stakes on turf.

The Starlet deserves better. It is an event replete with winners who were already stars before they showed up, among them Excellent Meeting, Sardula, Sharp Cat, Serena's Song, Goodbye Halo, and Outstandingly. The best of them all might have been champion Althea, winner of the Starlet 25 years ago, who already had won the Del Mar Debutante and beaten colts in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship and Del Mar Futurity.

Were Althea in this version of the Starlet, it would be rendered either a walkover or a betless exhibition. Instead, it's a crapshoot, which means no one can fault an owner like Paul Reddam for taking a swing with longshot Black Magic Mama. As Reddam puts it, "She doesn't know she's a maiden." Neither does she have any cause to be intimidated.

Reddam does know what it takes to win a Starlet. His Elloluv took the prize in 2002, defeating Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies runner-up Composure. Neither can Reddam be accused of a being shy in the face of lofty goals and long odds. He has won Breeders' Cup races with Red Rocks at 10-1 and Wilko at 28-1.

Still, Black Magic Mama is 0 for 4 for Doug O'Neill and unplaced in both the Oak Leaf and the BC Juvenile Fillies this fall. She certainly deserves to be a big number, especially after her most recent start when she was second in a maiden heat at odds-on.

"We've obviously taken some shots with her," Reddam said. "She got crashed into pretty good in the Breeders' Cup" when she was eighth, beaten 7 1/4 lengths by Stardom Bound. "I can see handicappers wondering why she isn't in a maiden race. That's the conventional wisdom. And some would argue that when you race a horse against tougher company they could lose confidence, you could ruin them. To be honest, that's a bunch of nonsense.

"Alpha Kitten might be the next Stardom Bound," Reddam added, citing the likely Starlet favorite, "but the filly who beat her turned around and got beat, so who knows? With 2-year-olds, form changes. I think if you look at this field honestly, you can find reasons for anyone to win that race."

No matter how Black Magic Mama runs, Reddam is already assured of having a successful 2008 season. The highpoints included the victory of Red Rocks over Curlin in the Man o' War Stakes at Belmont, and the emergence of the imported Square Eddie this fall as the winner of the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.

"I did have five Group or Grade 1 winners, so I know I've been very fortunate," he said. "And one of those horses isn't really known over here yet. His name is Crowded House."

On the same day Square Eddie was finishing a close second to Midshipman in the BC Juvenile at Santa Anita, Crowded House was winning the prestigious Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster in England. So impressive was his effort in the one-mile event that he was immediately held as the favorite in some books for the 2009 Epsom Derby.

"In my wildest dreams, I'm hoping I won't be able to see him run in that race because I will be attending the Belmont Stakes the same day to watch Square Eddie," Reddam said.

Square Eddie, also trained by O'Neill, is getting a break before commencing his 3-year-old campaign. He will be pointed for a race like the San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 17, which means he will miss a rich opportunity in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity, run at Hollywood on Dec. 20. Reddam, whose loan company sponsors the Futurity, will be represented by Mark S the Cooler, a maiden.

"I want to support the race," Reddam said, "and I can always say the best one is back at the barn. Everyone says that, I know, but I think they'll believe me this time. Anyway, what's December for, if not for dreaming?"