07/03/2007 11:00PM

Sponsor out to raise interest


INGLEWOOD, Calif. - Just so there's no mix-ups, and to make sure folks take the right freeway exit, please note that the million-dollar Southern California horse race going off around 9 o'clock Friday night will not - repeat not - be run at the little Quarter Horse track on Katella Avenue in the town of Los Alamitos.

Any confusion would be understandable. In these parts, million-dollar races offered long after the sun has set usually are run on a straightaway, last about 20 seconds, and have names like the Ed Burke Futurity.

On Friday night, however, a million-dollar spotlight will beam down on the Hollywood Park turf course for the CashCall Mile, a race for fillies and mares that has attracted the 2006 Matriarch winner, Price Tag, and a host of international hopefuls well known to fans in England, South Africa, France, and Japan

"When we initially suggested having the race on Friday night, there were some looks of surprise and skepticism," said CashCall founder J. Paul Reddam. "But over the last week or so, it seems like people are getting excited about it."

CashCall - Reddam's online, unsecured, high-interest lending enterprise ("Loans that fit your lifestyle," goes its slogan), based in Southern California - is putting up around $400,000 of the prize money, plus another $200,000 from CashCall's advertising budget to promote the race. Beyond the obvious promotion of his company name, Reddam is hoping that such a race will help light a fire under the game.

"I find myself constantly reading about the racing game deteriorating," Reddam said. "There's a lot of gloom and doom. I just think it's nice to refocus some emphasis on something positive. Instead of moaning and groaning, let's do something about it. This is what I could do, so this is what I did."

Reddam has become one of the racing's high-profile patrons, with horses competitive in all divisions at one time or another. He has won (sometimes in partnership) such major events as the Breeders' Cup Turf, Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the Travers, Super Derby, Metropolitan Mile, and Ashland Stakes, and he was especially active this year in pursuit of Triple Crown success with the 3-year-old colts Great Hunter, Notional, and Liquidity.

Reddam was relieved to learn that it is perfectly okay for an owner to win the headline race he happens to be sponsoring. The sheikhs of Dubai do it all the time, having turned their Dubai World Cup into a recycling art form by winning seven of its 12 runnings. They are not alone.

Last fall, Juddmonte Farms' Rail Link won the Juddmonte Grand Prix de Paris at Longchamp before his victory in the Arc de Triomphe. Bob and Janice McNair of Stonerside Farm won the Stonerside Beaumont Stakes at Keeneland in 2000 with their filly Sahara Gold. And there was no one more elated than Leonard Lavin, CEO of Alberto-Culver, on the day his gray mare One Dreamer won the 1994 Breeders' Cup Distaff, sponsored by Alberto VO5.

Reddam is taking a swing at the CashCall jackpot with Dancing Edie, a front-running winner of the 2006 John C. Mabee Handicap at Del Mar and second to Wait a While in the subsequent Yellow Ribbon Invitational. A California-bred daughter of Moscow Ballet, Dancing Edie prepped for the CashCall with a solid second in the restricted Redondo Beach Handicap at a mile on the Hollywood turf June 9.

"I think she truly has her work cut out for her, especially with her running style," Reddam said. "But she'll give it a go. I'm particularly excited that the race has drawn some Japanese interest, and some of the bigger barns around the country have sent horses."

Reddam said Hollywood is hoping for a crowd of around 16,000 Friday night, which would be a veritable mob scene compared to the usual live attendance. Only 9,276 showed up to watch Lava Man win his third Gold Cup last Saturday.

"One of the things about horse racing I always scratch my head about is that we don't price to capacity, especially during the weekdays, when everyone complains about how miserable the attendance figures are," Reddam said. "It's like going into a restaurant or a club and nobody's there. The immediate feeling you get is that 'There's something wrong here.'

"Certainly, there are ways of putting people in those seats," Reddam added. "They may not be immediately profitable, but they would help over the long run. If you're not interested in seeing a race, you're highly unlikely to ever bet on one."

Whether or not the CashCall Mile is around for future fans to bet on remains to be seen. Modern racing is replete with major race sponsors who have come and gone like the tides. In the case of the CashCall Mile, Reddam made a three-year commitment to the event, beginning with last year's inaugural running.

"I can't commit to the financial health of the company being able to afford to do this indefinitely into the future," Reddam said. "But at the present time I'm excited and happy we've been able to do this deal, and I hope we can grow the event."

As risky sponsors go, CashCall would seem to be a good bet. At last count, Americans have accounted for $2.4 trillion in personal loans. Surely, they won't lose the impulse to borrow money.

"No," Reddam replied. "But they might stop paying it back."