Reddam hoping Nyquist can light the lamp in Florida Derby

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These days, owner Paul Reddam has one eye on the Kentucky Derby preps and another on the National Hockey League standings, for as much as he wants to get to and win the Derby again, he also wants his beloved Detroit Red Wings to keep alive their 24-year streak of making the playoffs.

Horses and hockey have been Reddam's passions since he was a youth, and with Nyquist -- his unbeaten champion colt who has his final Derby prep on Saturday in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream -- he's found the best way yet to combine the two.

Nyquist is named for Gustav Nyquist, a forward on the Red Wings. Reddam, who grew up just across the Detroit River from Detroit in Windsor, Ontario, has supported them since his youth.

"Since I was 5 years old," Reddam, 60, said in a telephone interview this week. "I went to my first game when I was 6 at the old Olympia."

More than three decades since moving to Southern California, he's still devoted, watching every game on television when he can't see the Red Wings in person against the Los Angeles Kings or Anaheim Ducks.

"I do a lot of sideline coaching," he said.

So, too, with his horses. Reddam and trainer Doug O'Neill mapped out a plan late last year to get to the Kentucky Derby with Nyquist. They decided on two preps this year, the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita -- which Nyquist won -- and then the Florida Derby. It is an unusual choice for a horse based at Santa Anita, but there were two alluring aspects to the Florida Derby -- a $1 million bonus Nyquist can earn for winning the race and it being five weeks in front of the Kentucky Derby, as opposed to the Santa Anita Derby being four weeks out.

"Doug likes the five weeks," Reddam said. "I like the $1 million."

Nyquist the horse has won all six of his starts, including the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last fall to secure the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male of 2015. He and Mohaymen -- both undefeated and set to square off in the Florida Derby -- are the two shortest prices on the future line of Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper, for the May 7 Kentucky Derby.

Nyquist the hockey player has 17 goals and 23 assists, making him the sixth-leading scorer on a Red Wings team that is battling with Philadelphia for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Their regular season ends April 9.

Reddam has yet to meet Gustav Nyquist.

"He texted me and invited me to a game and to meet the players," Reddam said. "I invited him to the Kentucky Derby, but hopefully they'll still be playing."

Reddam also has named horses after current Red Wings Pavel Datsyuk, Niklas Kronwall, Petr Mrazek, Tomas Tatar, and Henrik Zetterberg. Nyquist is by far the best of the bunch, but Mrazek is also a stakes winner.

Reddam said there was no particular reason why the Uncle Mo colt he purchased last year at Fasig-Tipton was deemed the one who would be named Nyquist as opposed to, say, Mrazek or Tatar.

"When you go to name horses, you often find that just about any name you can think of has already been taken," Reddam said. "Surnames make good horse names."

Reddam said he named several of his current 3-year-olds after Red Wings "more to annoy Erik Johnson" -- a defenseman on the Colorado Avalanche -- "who I'm partners with on some horses."

Reddam had an early connection to the Red Wings. In addition to his father, John, having season tickets for a few seasons, his mother, Grace, was a personal assistant to John Ziegler, who at the time was an attorney working for the Norris family, which owned the Red Wings. Ziegler eventually became president of the NHL.

Reddam's enthusiasm for the Red Wings survived moves to Toronto for grad school and then to Southern California -- where he finished his schooling and then went into business -- and 14 consecutive sub-.500 seasons in the 1970s and 1980s. Over the last 20 years, the Red Wings have won the Stanley Cup four times.

Reddam himself reached the highest point as a horse owner in 2012 when his colt I'll Have Another -- named not for Stanley Cup titles but for Reddam's penchant for snacking on cookies -- scored a 15-1 upset victory in the Kentucky Derby. He then won the Preakness before being injured and scratched on the eve of the Belmont Stakes. Nyquist, like I'll Have Another, is trained by O'Neill and ridden by Mario Gutierrez.

"I'm more nervous with Nyquist than I was four years ago," Reddam said. "With I'll Have Another, he was out of the spotlight until he won the Derby. This is a little more uncomfortable. You don't get nervous when you're a long price. There are a lot of expectations with a favorite. If you get too high, you crash. I'm trying to manage my expectations."

That goes for Nyquist's winning streak as well as the Red Wings' playoff streak.