DETROIT – He isn’t much of a horse enthusiast, but that doesn’t mean Ken Holland won’t be cheering like crazy for I’ll Have Another when the chestnut colt looks to make history Saturday afternoon at the Belmont Stakes.
“I think everybody follows the Triple Crown every year,” the Red Wings’ general manager said Thursday morning. “What an incredible story, I mean, he’s an underdog, and anytime that you’re staring at history it’s special, it’s hard to do.”
But Holland has a quasi-rooting interest in this weekend’s race, which along with the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, makes up horse-racing’s Triple Crown.
You see, Paul Reddam, the owner of the three-year-old Derby and Preakness winner, is a native of Windsor, Ontario, and a humongous Red Wings’ fan.
“They're my favorite team,” Reddam proclaimed this week.
Reddam, who grew-up on Cousineau Road and graduated from Assumption High School in Windsor, moved to southern California in 1979, and while he doesn’t watch all of the Wings’ games live, he does watch them all even if he has to pre-record them first.
No stranger to Red Wings’ Stanley Cup celebrations, Reddam attended Cup-clinching games in 1997, 1998 and 2002. He was also at Game 5 in 2008, which the Wings lost in overtime to the Penguins, only to win it all two nights later in Pittsburgh.
“Just to have some type of an association with the owner of a horse on the verge of making history is pretty neat, it’s pretty special for our team,” Holland said. “And on top of it, having him being a Red Wings’ fan just adds to the intrigue and the passion for Red Wings’ fans from all around North America.”
Reddam’s fanaticism for the Wings runs deeper that attending or watching games on TV. He’s even named several thoroughbreds in his stable of racehorses after former and current Red Wings players, like Great Wheels, which is named after former player and current color analyst Mickey Redmond.
“It’s very hard to come up with unique horse names, so when you use a surname, they’re generally not taken,” the 56-year-old Reddam said. “So we’ve had Lidstrom, Hudler, Zetterberg, Datsyuk. I wish the horses had been better horses, but you don’t really know when you’re naming them.”
With a win in Saturday’s 1 ½ mile race, Reddam can claim horse-racing’s version of the Stanley Cup, and I’ll Have Another will enter the annals of the Sport of Kings for becoming only the 12th horse ever to win all three races, and the first in 34 years.
It’s interesting to note that of the 11 previous Triple Crown winners, only Count Fleet (1943) won in a year when the Wings also won the Stanley Cup.
The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978, and Holland certainly understands the commitment and difficulty involved in capturing such an unparalleled title.
“It’s once-in-a-lifetime chance, even the Olympics is every four years,” Holland said. “With all of the people – and obviously the horse – but the trainers, the owner, the handlers, managers, everybody that’s involved, this is for three-year-olds and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
However, the excitement around this amazing horse hasn’t slowed Reddam, who seems to be enjoying his semi-celebrity status. And he isn’t bashful about announcing his allegiance to his favorite hockey team, either. So when the Chicago Blackhawks coach sent a congratulatory email following the remarkable come-from-behind victory at the Kentucky Derby last month, Reddam played it cool.
“I was out at dinner,” he said, “and I was kind of surprised to get an email from Joel Quenneville. I had to say, ‘Hey Joel, I am a Red Wings fan, but I think you’re a hell of a coach. Thanks for the kind sentiment.’ ”
At Churchill Downs and Pimlico, I’ll Have Another had incredible surges down the stretch to defeat heavily favored Bodemeister, who will not race at Belmont.
In Saturday’s $1 million race, I’ll Have Another is the heavy favorite in early betting, getting 4:5 odds to win. But he’ll have to do it from barrier No. 11, which is the second widest post-position in the 12-horse field.
“I watched the Derby when he just nosed (Bodemeister) out,” Holland said, “and then I watched the Preakness, and now I know that the Belmont is the longest one, it’s a marathon.
“I’ll definitely be watching as history is made.”
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