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Saddle Your Dreams

Businessman, racehorse owner and philosopher J. Paul Reddam (Ph.D. ’82) gets lucky when his colt wins the 2012 Kentucky Derby and the 2012 Preakness Stakes.

By Pamela J. Johnson
September 14, 2012


J. Paul Reddam, ’82
Video by Mira Zimet

The chestnut thoroughbred had a certain je ne sais quoi.

“He’s all class,” said J. Paul Reddam, who owned the racing horse, I’ll Have Another. “It’s just something you sense when you’re near him. Class is somewhat intangible. You know it when you see it.

“It’s the look in the eye, the way he stands and moves. I knew this was the real deal.”

Yet, I’ll Have Another was dismissed by most. When the horse raced in the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif., his odds were 43 to 1.

“An agent of mine balled me out for running in that race,” recounted Reddam, who in 1982 earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from USC Dornsife.

“He said, ‘Look, he’s 43 to 1, they are telling you the horse does not belong in this race. I’m embarrassed to be here.’ ”

Reddam told his agent friend, who was wearing a sweatshirt, to put up his hood so no one would recognize him in the stands.

“My horse crushed the field that day,” Reddam said of the colt that won by 2 ¾ lengths and was the longest shot in the field of eight 3-year-olds.

Competing against sheiks from Saudi Arabia who may spend millions on a thoroughbred they hope will win, Reddam, who owns CashCall, a company in Anaheim, Calif., offering personal and mortgage loans, bought the horse for a relatively low $35,000. In the 2012 Kentucky Derby, the colt — which Reddam named after never being able to resist another of his wife’s chocolate chip cookies — was 15 to 1.

Sitting in the grandstands at Churchill Downs, Reddam watched the pack of horses coming around a turn.

“From the corner of my eye I could see forward movement of one of the horses and I realized it was him,” Reddam recounted. “He had an eighth of a mile to go and was in second. We’ve all heard the cliché time stands still. Well I’ve got to tell you that 13 seconds from the 8th pole to the wire seemed like an hour and a half.”

Reddam snapped his fingers: “Bang! He crossed the wire.

 


USC Dornsife alumnus J. Paul Reddam stands next to his wife, Zillah, and holds up his Kentucky Derby trophy with the horse's jockey Mario Gutierrez. Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt, Blood-Horse Magazine; courtesy of bloodhorse.com.

“The next thing I knew security was on me. They grabbed me like I was being arrested.”

Come this way, they said, before the media pounced on him.

Then with his mane braided and his coat shimmering, I’ll Have Another went on to become a Preakness Stakes champion — the second jewel of the Triple Crown. On his way to becoming the first horse to win the Triple Crown in 34 years, the colt was performing like the winner he was during his workouts.

Two days before the third race of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, I’ll Have Another swaggered off the track after practice. His trainer Doug O’Neill looked at Reddam and said:

“We can’t lose.”

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Reddam caught the horse-racing bug while in high school in Windsor, located in southwestern Ontario, Canada. His buddy was working as a Standardbred groom and introduced Reddam to harness racing. When he wasn’t studying, Reddam spent his time at the track.

Born John Paul Reddam, he goes by his middle name to differentiate himself from his father, John, a retired mortgage banker. At the University of Windsor, the younger Reddam studied psychology, but a general education course in philosophy piqued his interest. His psychology classes sometimes contained more than 100 students and he liked the smaller philosophy class. He did so well in applied logic that his professor encouraged him to continue studying philosophy.

“Because I got that kind of attention and was at a small university, I became their star student in philosophy,” Reddam said. “My professors pushed me to go to the University of Toronto. ‘It’s the best school in Canada,’ they told me. ‘We’re relying on you to help our reputation here.’ I fell for the whole thing. And I got scholarships to do it.”

While pursuing his master’s degree at the University of Toronto, he studied under the internationally known philosopher Bas van Fraassen, who had a joint appointment with USC Dornsife’s School of Philosophy and now teaches at San Francisco State University.

“Professor van Fraassen was the most brilliant person I’d ever met,” Reddam said. “His classes were absolutely fascinating. He, more than anything or anyone, was responsible for the interest I took in philosophy.”

Already working toward his doctorate degree in philosophy at the University of Toronto, in February 1979 Reddam visited USC, where van Fraassen was teaching.

“When I left Toronto it was minus 3 degrees and when I arrived at the USC campus it was a typical February day in the high 60s,” Reddam recalled. “Mudd Hall was very pleasant. It was all very exciting. After a week or so van Fraassen said, ‘You know you’re my student whether you’re in Toronto or here, so maybe you should try to transfer to USC.’ ”

Reddam ended up teaching logic in USC Dornsife while earning his doctorate.

“I think the people at USC made the mistake of thinking that because I was van Fraassen’s student, I must be as brilliant as he is,” Reddam said with a mischievous smile. 

At USC Dornsife, he spent most of his studying time in Mudd Hall’s Hoose Library.

“It was exciting to be part of a department that was really trying to make something of itself,” Reddam said.

He focused on epistemology, the study of knowledge and justified belief.

“Philosophy to me is about possibilities,” he said. “It’s about a way of thinking and exploring problems, a way of thinking I never knew existed.”

With a Ph.D. under his belt and lecturing at several universities in Southern California, Reddam decided to try his hand in business and went to work at his father’s mortgage bank in Michigan. He enjoyed the work but missed the golden state. So he moved back to Southern California and opened his own mortgage company.

Six years later, his chief financial officer ran off with the company’s money.

“That was devastating,” he said. “But it was a real learning experience. And sometimes having bad things happen to you is a good thing over the long run. I decided to start again.”

His hugely successful company employs 1,700 and is growing.

“It keeps me pretty busy,” Reddam said. But when he’s not at work, there’s only one place to find him.

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“From the corner of my eye I could see forward movement of one of the horses and I realized it was him,” said USC Dornsife alumnus J. Paul Reddam referring to his colt (pictured here in front) that won the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Photo by Anne M. Eberhardt, Blood-Horse Magazine; courtesy of bloodhorse.com.

Early the day before the Belmont Stakes at the Belmont Park Race Track in Elmont, New York, Reddam called his horse trainer O’Neill to check on I’ll Have Another.

“There was something odd in his voice,” Reddam recalled of O’Neill. “I put it down to the stress of the situation.”

O’Neill told Reddam there were many people around and to call back a bit later. A few hours later, O’Neill explained to Reddam that I’ll Have Another had some heat and swelling in his front leg. Although they hoped it was nothing, as a precaution, they called in a veterinarian. After the checkup, O’Neill called Reddam.

“No bueno,” he told Reddam.

“My heart sank,” Reddam recalled. The vet’s scan showed the horse had a tiny tear in his tendon. Reddam knew if I’ll Have Another raced in the Belmont Stakes, he could be seriously injured.

“The decision was painful, but we had to do the right thing,” Reddam recalled. “There was no choice but to scratch.”

At a quickly organized press conference, Reddam announced the retirement of I’ll Have Another.

“I’m afraid history is going to have to wait for another day,” he said at the press conference.

Still, Reddam is grateful for what he considers “an adventure of a lifetime.”

Never once the favorite, I’ll Have Another won two jewels in the Triple Crown.

“You learn in horse racing just like in philosophy that most people are wrong about most things,” Reddam said. “So don’t be worried about what everybody thinks. Cut your own path.”

The former philosophy teacher has some advice for undergraduates.

“Your education, if you do it properly, will teach you how to think critically, how to problem solve and how to dream,” Reddam said. “When you’re thinking about what your career is going to be, it’s likely going to be different than what you think. The important thing is that you learn cognitive skills necessary to follow the road wherever it takes you.”