Reddam a gamblin' man

Paul Reddam (left), owner of I'll Have Another, speaks to the media after workouts for the horse at...

Paul Reddam (left), owner of I'll Have Another, speaks to the media after workouts for the horse at Belmont Park in Elmont, New York, June 6, 2012. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:02 PM ET

ELMONT, N.Y. - He may be on the verge of owning the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years, but the gambler in Paul Reddam also makes him a realist.

It is the gambler living large inside the Canadian millionaire that couldn’t resist making a reported six-figure wager on his horse, I’ll Have Another, in this year’s Kentucky Derby, even though he stood to collect $700,000-plus if the horse won.

It is the gambler inside that, legend has it, once used a government grant while studying at the University of Toronto to help finance the first racehorse he ever owned.

And it is the gambler’s insight that has grounded him heading into Saturday’s Belmont Stakes with a chance to become the owner of just the 12th Triple Crown winner in racing’s rich past. Big races or small, huge bets or hunch bets, Reddam knows as much can go wrong in a horse race as can go right.

“Just go back in history (and look at past Triple Crown failures in the Belmont),” Reddam said Wednesday morning before his long-striding chestnut drew Post 11 in the 12-horse field for the 144th running of the so-called Test of the Champion.

“He could get smashed at the gate. His shoe could come loose. The pace of the race could be messed up one way or another. Maybe he wakes up that morning and starts coughing? You don’t know.

“My own experience has been that when we are overwhelming favourites, we always lose. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked up and seen our horse favoured and the horse ends up (finishing) up the track. That’s why they run the races and that’s why the (betting) public is wrong two out of three times.”

If anyone knows about the betting public, it is Reddam, the bankroll of the I’ll Have Another team that has settled in here at the famous Long Island track. At 6:40 p.m. on Saturday, over the 11/2-miles of Belmont Park’s sandy dirt surface, we’ll find out whether it is time to crown the sport’s next and long-awaited hero or protect the exclusivity of the club that includes Affirmed, Secretariat, Citation, Seattle Slew and seven others.

Unlike the blue-blood owners who often populate the sport at its elite level, Reddam grew up decidedly blue-collar.

As a high-school kid, he would attend the harness races at Windsor Raceway, where he experienced the initial rush of a winning bet and the crush of a losing one. The hobby, if you could call it that, continued when he moved to the University of Toronto and took the streetcar to old Greenwood Raceway, where he was a regular.

Eventually, Reddam moved to Southern California, where he taught philosophy at California State University, a pursuit not exactly in line with crunching speed figures and punching out trifecta tickets. The gambler in him never left, however, and when Reddam hit it big by founding mortgage loan company Ditech.com — selling it for a reported $230 million-plus to General Motors — suddenly, he had the means to both buy horses and bet on them.

And whether it is a six-figure bet or owning a Triple Crown contender, few in the high stakes sport play it with greater enthusiasm.

I’ll Have Another, who is currently riding a four-race winning streak — all of them in stakes events — is not Reddam’s first successful stakes horse. He has won two Breeders’ Cup events and had three previous starters in the Kentucky Derby, none of which finished in the top three.

But, sometimes, from minimal risk comes much reward. I’ll Have Another was a $35,000 purchase — safe to hazard that Reddam has wagered that much on a single race in the past. The colt, who is by a sire named Flower Alley (the property of another Canadian, Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk) has earned $2,629,600 already this year.

The gambler in the 56-year-old acknowledges that if he were betting Saturday’s race — which at morning-line odds of 4-5 will see I’ll Have Another favoured for the first time in his eight-race career — he’d probably be looking elsewhere for value.

“When I sit from the inside and look at the race, I can figure a dozen reasons why the horse can lose,” Reddam said. “But from the outside he looks like he could be pretty tough. I don’t know whether I should listen to the inside or the outside.

“In golf, there’s a saying you play the ball where it lies and that’s what you do in horse racing. Basically, there is one day in a horse’s life he can run in the Belmont Stakes. If you are ready, you’re ready, if you’re not, not. If you’re sick, too bad.

“You’ve just got to go with it, whatever obstacles are going to come along.”

The obstacles have been plenty for Triple Crown hopefuls in recent years. Injuries have conspired against some of those that have won the first two legs, the most recent being Big Brown in 2008. Poor rides or poor racing luck have taken down others. And some just haven’t been good enough.

“They’ve got to run the race, certainly this race has a history of some big surprises,” Reddam the gambling realist said. “We don’t know what will happen until Saturday. To me, that’s the excitement of the sport.”


O’NEILL CONFIDENT IN I'LL HAVE ANOTHER

With a mile-and-a-half to get settled and a wide-sweeping racetrack to help matters, post positions for the Belmont Stakes are the least important of the Triple Crown series.

Of more concern for I’ll Have Another’s trainer Doug O’Neill is that his three-year-old chestnut colt continues to thrive as he approaches his run for history on Saturday.

“He’s handled this journey as good as you could possibly ask a horse,” O’Neill said on Wednesday after I’ll Have Another drew Post 11 in the 12-horse Belmont field. “He hasn’t lost a bit of flesh at all, his coat continues to shine and look great, so we couldn’t ask for him to be coming into this any better.”

O’Neill said he plans to have a strategy session with jockey Mario Gutierrez, the native of Mexico who was a top rider at Vancouver’s Hastings Park for the past six years.

“We’re going to huddle up and talk,” O’Neill said. “Being in the 11th hole, we’re able to see how the pace sets up. If they’re crawling, we’ll hopefully be leading the crawl and if they’re flying, we’ll be sitting behind the horses flying.”

Fittingly, as the Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion, I’ll Have Another was made the 4-5 morning-line favourite for the 1.5-mile marathon. Dullahan, who skipped the Preakness to rest up for this race after finishing a late-charging third in the Derby, is the second choice at 5-1.


KEEPING YOU POSTED

Post positions and odds for Saturday’s 144th running of the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.

Distance: 1.5 miles.

Stakes record: 2:24, Secretariat (June 9, 1973)

Post time: 6:40 p.m.

PostHorseJockeyMorning-line

1. Street Life, Jose Lezcano, 12-1

2. Unstoppable U, Junior Alvarado, 30-1

3. Union Rags, John Velazquez, 6-1

4. Atigun, Julien Leparoux, 30-1

5. Dullahan, Javier Castellano, 5-1

6. Ravelo's Boy, Alex Solis, 50-1

7. Five Sixteen, Rosie Napravnik, 50-1

8. Guyana Star Dweej, Kent Desormeaux, 50-1

9. Paynter, Mike Smith, 8-1

10. Optimizer, Corey Nakatani, 20-1

11. I'll Have Another, Mario Gutierrez, 4-5

12. My Adonis, Ramon Dominguez, 20-1


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