11/09/2006 12:00AM

Sure picked a good day to get lucky

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INGLEWOOD, Calif. - The gang that gathered at the Galt House bar early last Saturday evening had bragging rights on two of the eight Breeders' Cup races freshly run at Churchill Downs. They were giddy and ready for a night on the town, in this case Louisville, with its charms spread out before them for the taking. So what did they do?

Hung around the bar and watched the eighth from Hollywood, what else?

"Typical sick horse fanatics," apologized Doug O'Neill, the trainer of Thor's Echo, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint. "But we had Liquidity in the feature for Paul. The horse ran real spotty, ran a mediocre third, and of course we all blamed it on Cushion Track."

Paul is Paul Reddam, winner of the Breeders' Cup Turf with Red Rocks. And the Cushion Track crack was pure racetrack humor, a lame attempt to explain away the fact that this particular bunch could nail two of the greatest racing prizes on earth but somehow could not manage to win a little hundred-grander on an artificial surface with a 17-10 favorite, far from the Breeders' Cup spotlight.

Much was made of the fact that the 2006 Breeders' Cup was so heavily weighted with runners from the various stables of Dubai's Maktoum family, and they came through big time in the Classic with one-two finishers Invasor and Bernardini. Otherwise, the best they did was a bumped-up third for Balletto in the Distaff, while Henny Hughes, Echo of Light, and Librettist proved just as human as the rest of the losers, with or without oil money.

As the most prolific American owner on the card, Reddam had the kind of day that would challenge the sanity of any Thoroughbred investor. Leading up to the Turf, Reddam had to suffer through the following:

* Oak Leaf Stakes winner Cash Included, a close second choice at 5-2, finishing fifth in the Juvenile Fillies, beaten 7 1/2 lengths by Dreaming of Anna.

* Breeders' Futurity winner Great Hunter, a live fourth choice at 7-1, finishing third in the Juvenile, beaten 12 1/4 lengths by Street Sense.

* John C. Mabee Handicap winner Dancing Edie, dismissed at 36-1, racing on the pace and fading to eighth in the Filly and Mare Turf, beaten about 12 lengths by Ouija Board.

* Santa Barbara Handicap winner Sharp Lisa, owned in partnership with Suarez Racing and a fat 39-1, under pressure on the lead before finishing sixth in the Distaff, beaten about 6 1/2 lengths by Round Pond.

At that point, it would have been understandable had Reddam's hopes shifted to Liquidity out West. But he still had Red Rocks, the 3-year-old son of Gallileo who provided a happy ending by beating former champ Better Talk Now in the $3 million Turf under Frankie Dettori.

"When it comes to something like the Breeders' Cup, I try to remind everyone around me - and that includes myself - that chances are you are going to lose, since everyone has come to fire their best shot," Reddam said. "Mentally, you should prepare yourself for that."

A 51-year-old native of Ontario, Canada, Reddam approached this Breeders' Cup differently than his maiden voyage, 15 years ago.

"The first horse I ran in a Breeders' Cup race was Swept Overboard in the 2001 Sprint," he said this week from his CashCall offices in Fountain Valley, Calif. "He had just won the Ancient Title with a 122 Beyer. Obviously, we thought he could win. Then, boom - the gates open, the pace is slower than you would have ever expected, he ends up on a dead rail, and gets beat a length. I sat there, just devastated. I'm sure that's the feeling most people have."

O'Neill would be the first to agree. In addition to winning this year's Sprint, he lost the Classic - along with a chance for the Horse of the Year title - with Lava Man.

"After he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with Wilko a couple years ago, Paul will say jokingly that he has all the answers," O'Neill said. "He knows he doesn't, but he does have a great perspective on the game. On the morning of the Breeders' Cup, he called to calm my nerves. He reminded me that there would be life after the Breeders' Cup, no matter what happened."

Reddam has parlayed a doctorate in psychology into a bountiful business career, primarily in mortgages and personal loans, but he does not pretend that there is any reason that racing smarts should follow.

"First of all, racing takes a lot of luck," Reddam said. "In school, unless you're taking a lot of multiple choice tests, there's not much luck involved. In business, you pretty much control your own fate."

In the end, the toughest part of Breeders' Cup Day for Reddam turned out to be the ceremonial leading in by the winning owner. He does not pretend to be an experienced handler of highly strung Thoroughbreds, and Red Rocks proved the point.

"He was moving pretty fast, and I was having a hard time keeping up," Reddam said. "I look up, and there's Frankie, paying no attention, arms spread out, throwing flowers everywhere. I'm thinking, this could be really bad. Later, I was told it normally took two lads to walk him. But even if he'd taken off, I would have hung on."