04/05/2012 12:32PM

Santa Anita Derby: Reddam takes risky path with I'll Have Another

Benoit & Associates
Paul Reddam (left) and Doug O’Neill send I’ll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby, just his second start of the year. The colt is 26th in graded earnings.

Those dice being rolled Saturday in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby are in the hands of Paul Reddam, the owner of I’ll Have Another, who must come up with a big effort if he is going to make it into the field for the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs.

I’ll Have Another is a son of Travers winner Flower Alley who returned from a five-month competitive absence to win the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 4. Reddam’s thinking even before that race was to skip any further preps and point for the Santa Anita Derby, a plan trainer Doug O’Neill and his crew filed away under “owner’s idea.”

“I don’t think they took me too seriously at the time,” Reddam said.

It was O’Neill, however, who gave Reddam the push to believe I’ll Have Another was poised for a significant spring.

“When a horse isn’t racing, Doug − like a lot of trainers − will tell you how well he’s training,” Reddam said. “You learn to filter that somewhat because trainers are by nature generally optimists, so I often listen to the pitch of their voice rather than the actual words. There was a certain cadence in Doug’s voice that told me the horse was doing very well.”

Well enough, Reddam said, to come off the bench and into a Grade 2 event with a horse who’d won nothing more than a maiden race the summer before.

“It never scared me, going into the deep end of the pool,” Reddam said. “Common opinion in racing is wrong on average two-thirds of the time. I thought even if he gets beat in the Lewis, the entry in the Kentucky Derby is usually determined four or five weeks out. So at the very least the Lewis would set him up good for the Santa Anita Derby.”

And then he won, by nearly three lengths under the unsung Mario Gutierrez at odds of 43-1.

“As soon as he crossed the wire in the Lewis everyone was suddenly on the same page,” Reddam said.
In the 38 runnings of the Kentucky Derby since 1973, when the Meadow Stable of Penny Chenery won a second consecutive Derby with Secretariat, 37 owners or partnerships have taken home the prize. The only repeaters during this stretch were Robert and Beverly Lewis – as in the Robert Lewis Stakes – who won with Silver Charm in 1997 and with Charismatic in 1999. 

Such an egalitarian distribution of good fortune encourages people like Reddam to think their turn could someday come.

“When Mine That Bird won the Derby, if you could have given me any other horse in the race against him in a match race, there isn’t one I wouldn’t have taken,” Reddam said, referring to the 50-1 winner of the 2009 running.

It is a hard fact that the scope of Thoroughbred investment does not seem to help an owner’s odds of winning the Kentucky Derby (see Mohammed, Sheikh). Of course, trying to buy good horses can’t hurt.
Reddam and his wife, Zillah, have won some of racing’s most coveted prizes. The list includes, but is not exclusive to, the Travers, the Donn, the Super Derby, the Metropolitan, the Ashland, the Man o’ War, the Godolphin Mile in Dubai, the Racing Post Trophy in England, and two Breeders’ Cup events – the 2004 Juvenile with Wilko and the 2006 Turf with Red Rocks.

This would seem to make for a handsome trophy room in the Reddams’ California seaside home in Sunset Beach.

“I hope this doesn’t come out the wrong way,” Reddam said. “But in the garage, we have a lot of photos displayed. It’s actually a pretty nice garage. We don’t have a racing shrine, as it were, but there are a number of trophies around the house, including the Travers.

“Seven or eight years ago I’d do a lot more walking down memory lane, but we’ve gotten a little more jaded now,” he said. “It takes maybe a little more to get the juices flowing than when we first got in. I’ve learned over time that horses have various levels of talent, and wishing and hoping won’t make them better.”

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Despite Reddam’s success with such private purchases as Wilko and Red Rocks, he’s backed away from that segment of the market to concentrate more on the purchase of 2-year-olds at auction. I’ll Have Another was bought last year in Ocala by Dennis O’Neill, the trainer’s brother, for $35,000.

Reddam has taken Kentucky Derby swings before, either in partnerships or on his own. In 2003 Ten Most Wanted finished ninth to Funny Cide, with a trip from hell, then later took the Travers. In 2005 Reddam watched his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Wilko finish sixth to Giacomo (they pay to fifth), and in 2007 he took two swings with Great Hunter (13th) and Liquidity (14th). He describes these experiences as “learning the hard way.”

“We’ve got to all remember we’re supposed to be doing this for fun,” Reddam said. “If it’s more like a job, then you’re probably in the wrong game – emphasis on the word ‘game.’ ”

Reddam, 56, is a native of Ontario, Canada, whose first career was spent teaching philosophy to university students. In the mid-1990s he hung up his professor’s robes to start a mortgage company called DiTech Funding, which he sold in 1999 to General Motors.

Reddam founded CashCall in 2003, along with its aggressively advertised product of instant “signature” loans in the range of $10,000 to $20,000 with no collateral, but which had the potential of dizzyingly high interest rates if not quickly repaid. In its first three years, CashCall loaned out more than $200 million, estimating a default rate of around 20 percent.

In 2009 accusations of usurious practices and collection harassment were leveled against CashCall by the California state attorney general’s office. The case was settled when CashCall agreed to pay $1 million in fines plus legal fees and institute in-house reforms, without admitting wrongdoing.

By then, CashCall had begun a shift away from signature loans and into mortgage refinancing and home loans, which now, according to Reddam, makes up at least half the company’s business – a return, as it were, to his DiTech roots. In 2011, the mortgage side of the CashCall operation was given an A-rating by the Los Angeles Chapter of the Better Business Bureau.

“The company has grown quite a bit in the last year,” Reddam said. “I’ve been running full speed, and it’s occupying quite a bit of my focus. I’m not getting any younger, and this will be the last job I have.”

Reddam has spent some of CashCall’s money on racing promotions, and not just Thoroughbreds. On Saturday, while I’ll Have Another carries Reddam’s colors in the Santa Anita Derby, the CashCall Mortgage Cycling Team will be competing some 50 miles to the north near Castaic Lake in the Serious Cycling Classic. Seriously.

It has been Reddam’s ongoing sponsorship each December of what was once called the Hollywood Futurity that gives CashCall its greatest racing exposure. At a purse of $750,000, the CashCall Futurity is second only to the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot among non-Breeders’ Cup 2-year-old events offered in North America.

“It doesn’t do a lot for our business,” Reddam said. “But it is a way to give something back to racing. California has seen massive cuts in the stakes program over the last couple of years, which I think is really bad for the state.”

I’ll Have Another missed the 2011 CashCall Futurity – as well as the last part of the season – recovering from a shin injury. He enters the weekend 25th on the Derby money list, which means he’ll need to earn his way to Louisville, with everything riding on Saturday.

In one of those ironic twists racing seems to provide, it is because of CashCall’s Futurity largesse that I’ll Have Another might not make the cut. Liaison and Rousing Sermon, the 1-2 finishers in the 2011 CashCall, currently rank 11th and 16th on the Derby earnings list, thanks in large part to what they earned in the Hollywood event.

“I was kind of thinking about making a late stab at the Santa Anita Derby by increasing the purse another $250,000,” Reddam said with a laugh. “That way if he ended up running third he would still qualify.”

In fact, Reddam is prepared to live with the consequences if his relatively unorthodox plan to have I’ll Have Another fresh for the Kentucky Derby backfires.

“In racing, people draw conclusions all the time from too small a statistical sample,” he said. “In the end, you have to admit that any conclusion you draw could be wrong, and you should be eligible to change your mind as you see more and more. Particularly about the Kentucky Derby.”