Nyquist owner Paul Reddam shares his secrets ahead of return to Kentucky Derby
Paul Reddam was born with one foot in the hockey world, the other in horse racing.
At age six, his father took him to his first NHL game, across the river from his birthplace in Windsor, Ont. To this day, the Detroit Red Wings are his passion. One of his most memorable moments came when he got to drink from the Stanley Cup after the Red Wings won in 2002.
He also admits to being a victim of Kentucky Derby fever. He was a philosophy professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, bought his first thoroughbred in 1988 and moved on to the mortgage and cash lending world. He’s president of CashCall in California.
In 2011, with the help of California trainer Doug O’Neill and his bloodstock-agent brother, Dennis, Reddam spent $35,000 to buy I’ll Have Another.
I’ll Have Another won the Kentucky Derby at odds of 15 to 1, and the Preakness, too, but he was scratched with an injury on the eve of the Belmont Stakes.
Four years later, Reddam is back at the Triple Crown table with Nyquist, undefeated in seven starts and the clear favourite to win the Kentucky Derby on May 7. And yes, he named the colt after Red Wings right winger Gustav Nyquist, a man he’s never met, but whom he admires.
Reddam named the horse after a Red Wings player just to bug his friend, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson, with whom he owns a couple of horses. “I’ve been teasing him about how, when his contract is up, he should sign up with the Wings,” Reddam said. “He tells me there is no way he would ever sign with the Wings.”
The odds of having yet another Triple Crown powerhouse are highly remote, but Reddam’s ace is Dennis O’Neill, who he calls “a bit of a savant.” Reddam likes to buy 2-year-olds, and sets O’Neill to horse sales without a plan, other than to avoid spending tens of millions of dollars on untried horseflesh. Reddam prefers to pay reasonable prices for horses that the heavy-hitting buyers avoid, the ones that “are always going to go for way more money than the risk would warrant,” he said.
At a Florida sale last year, the buzz from bloodstock agents centred around a son from Uncle Mo’s first crop. But O’Neill preferred another son of Uncle Mo. Then when Reddam’s European bloodstock agent Jamie McCalmont agreed with him – a rare occurrence – Reddam thought he’d take a swing at the colt.
Reddam spent more than he’d normally spend - $400,000 – on the colt we now know as Nyquist, but in hindsight, he says it’s been a bargain. Nyquist goes into the Kentucky Derby as the richest entrant, with earnings of $3.289 million, including a $1 million bonus as a graduate of the sale that also won the Florida Derby.
Even though Nyquist had been the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and the 2-year-old colt champion in the United States last year, he went into the Florida Derby as an underdog to undefeated Mohaymen.
“People can’t seem to figure the horse [Nyquist] out, because they don’t think he’ll go a mile and a quarter [the Derby distance] and they don’t think he’s that fast,” Reddam said. “But he runs just as fast as he needs to run. We will have that theory tested in the Derby for sure.”
And besides, nobody in the Nyquest camp is questioning the colt’s ability to go the distance. “We’re all looking at each other, thinking: ‘What are they talking about?’” Reddam said.
For now, Reddam will apply the lessons he’s learned from a few decades as a horse owner: don’t get too confident. He’s not the sort to get ruffled, although he admits that he’s a tad uncomfortable going into this Derby with a horse in the spotlight.
“I kind of preferred it the other way, coming in around the edge and feeling optimistic that things would go well,” Reddam said, referring to I’ll Have Another. “And not having everybody question our expectations when we’re favourite. To me, there are only two outcomes: There is winning and losing. In the other situation, if you ran second or third, you’d be excited. Whereas for Nyquist, is he’s going to run third, that would be a loss. There’d be no joy there.”
He doesn’t believe in getting overly emotional about winning and losing. “First of all, I don’t think you’d last very long,” he said. “Secondly, if you have a hit rate of say 15 per cent in racing, that’s considered successful. That means you are losing at least five out of six times. So if you can’t handle that, you’re in the wrong spot.”