As a philosophy professor at California State University in Los Angeles, J. Paul Reddam dabbled in logic and epistemology, the study of knowledge.
As a horse owner, Reddam put his specialties to good use, buying horses, winning races and collecting prize money. To pull it all together, he started a lucrative mortgage lending company he sold for millions, and currently operates an unsecured loans business that rakes in enough dough to allow him to live in Sunset Beach, Calif., and have a membership in three private golf clubs.
Nothing, though, has prepared the 56-year-old from Windsor, Ontario, for a date with immortality at the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, when the colt he bought for $35,000 - I'll Have Another - attempts to become the first Triple Crown champion in 34 years.
"I won't let myself think about it," said Reddam, who bears a resemblance to the actor/comedian Mike Myers, a fellow Canadian. "If we cross the finish line first or not, my attitude is we're along for the ride. And where it goes, it goes. We're lucky enough to be living a dream, and let's see how it ends."
Reddam and his wife, Zillah, arrived at Belmont Park on Wednesday morning, and accompanied trainer Doug O'Neill to the track to watch I'll Have Another go for his morning gallop. It was the first time he had seen the colt he bought on the advice of O'Neill's brother, Dennis, since the morning after his Kentucky Derby winner had reeled in Bodemeister to win the Preakness on May 19.
So much has gone on since. Reddam got back to work at CashCall, Inc., his Fountain Valley, Calif., company that makes unsecured loans to high-risk investors. There was the 45-day suspension to O'Neill for a medication violation; a visa issue with I'll Have Another's exercise rider; a ban on nasal strips the horse wears; a near-collision with a runaway horse; and the hasty order by New York's racing and wagering board for a detention barn for all Belmont runners for security and safety measures.
Of course, Reddam took a philosophical approach.
"I'm not wondering what's next," he said. "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 and if you're ready you're ready and if you're not you're not. And if you're sick, too bad. So you've just got to go with it, whatever obstacles are put in the way."
Over these five weeks at Churchill Downs, Pimlico and now Belmont, Reddam has tried to minimize the issues, and accentuate the fun factor. He has spared no expense in allowing Team O'Neill to do right by his horses, and to enjoy a magical journey in their quest for the Triple Crown. In Baltimore, he put them up in condos on the waterfront at the Inner Harbor. In New York, he rented a 12,000-square-foot mansion in Old Westbury for the crew.
"Paul is awesome. A mentor in so many ways," Doug O'Neill said. "He has an unbelievable work ethic, and he's never had anything handed to him. He's the most loyal guy I've ever met. The way he's treated us ... there's no possible way we could have enjoyed our journey with any other owner the way we have with Paul. Everything's first class with him."
Reddam has a pretty decent racing record, too. He was a harness racing fan as a kid, and when he moved to California he was captivated by the thoroughbreds at Santa Anita Park in the 1980s. He started buying claiming horses, and as his business picked up he began buying more expensive stock. In 2001, Swept Overboard gave him his first Grade 1 win, an exhilarating victory over Breeders' Cup Sprint champion Kona Gold in the Ancient Title at Santa Anita.
It was Reddam's "aha" moment in racing.
"On the backside, we were 15 lengths off the lead, and I'm standing next to (trainer) Wally Dollase, who says `What's (jockey Eddie) Delahoussaye doing? He's got him in China!' `' said Reddam. "I said, `OK, let's just watch.' So he cuts the corner, flew by everybody and it was the most thrilling thing to have that experience. It's human nature to want to repeat it and chase it."
So he did. He won the 2006 Breeders' Cup Turf with Red Rocks, who also beat two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in the 2008 Man o' War; Square Eddie took the Breeders' Futurity in 2008, and Wilko won the 2004 Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
The Reddam-O'Neill team began in 2004. A friendship quickly developed between Dennis O'Neill and Reddam. Both loved picking out horses and both loved picking up a few skins on the links.
On the track, they won together early on with the likes of Great Hunter and Sharp Lisa. On the golf course, well, that's a different story. The way Dennis O'Neill tells it, Reddam's best qualities - his competitiveness and a sense of humor - are on display.
"He doesn't like to lose," said Dennis.
Take a day about five years ago at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif., with the usual threesome of Reddam, Dennis O'Neill and former jockey agent Nick Cosato teeing it up. As Dennis tells it, Reddam's tee shot on a par 3 goes over the green, and lands at the foot of a large rock. Undeterred, Reddam climbs up on it, bends over, and tries to "play it as it lies."
"Here's this short, chubby guy trying to whack at a ball six feet below him, and Nick and I are falling down laughing," says Dennis O'Neill. "He just wouldn't have it any other way. It was absolutely hilarious."
So how'd it turn out?
"He whiffed," said Dennis, adding that the scene inspired them to name a horse Doc On The Roc.
"Ask Dennis who ends up with money when the day is over," he said.
Dennis doesn't smile.
"There's a lot of cash on the line," he said. "For him, it's a joke. ... He likes to mess with us all the way around because he knows he can. He knows a $100 putt for us is a lot more stressful than it is for him."
That's not to say Reddam doesn't come through for the people he likes. He told Dennis that if I'll Have Another won the Derby, he'd splurge for a car. After all, it was O'Neill who picked out I'll Have Another at the Ocala 2-year-old sales in April, 2011.
After the Derby, it was Reddam who reminded Dennis to go to a BMW dealer and pick out the car of his choice. A BMW 7 series, charcoal gray, is on order.
But Reddam gets credit, too.
"Paul doesn't say go buy me a horse," Dennis said. "He has a lot of input. If I like something, he has to give the OK. He looks up breeding and watches previews. He's very aware and intelligent as far as breeding."
Like Doug O'Neill, Reddam is under scrutiny, too. CashCall, according a report by Bloomberg Businessweek, has faced or is currently facing legal trouble in several states, including California, West Virginia, and Maryland. It is also connected to a lender in South Dakota who is facing enforcement action from the Federal Trade Commission.
"It all comes with the territory," said Reddam. "You have to have a thick skin."
Reddam is trying to keep an even keel in the final days before his horse attempts to join an elite group that includes Secretariat, Citation and Affirmed. He tries not to think of what might be. Then again, he can't help himself.
"I'm hopeful in the end that the story is about the horse," he said, "and when we think back on it in a few years all the other stuff that has gone on is just a little bit of a side show, and it's `wow!' people said it couldn't be done, if in fact he gets it done."