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2007 Kentucky Derby -- Moneyball Edition

In search of the elusive Derby trifecta tomorrow, I'm going to take a Moneyball-inspired strategy. We are looking for the rags to riches sorts, the ones who were overlooked while young, but have blossomed into contenders for tomorrow's Derby.

As usual, tomorrow's Derby brings together a mixture of horses that were fancied early on and sold for huge pricetags, and horses that were initially overlooked, but proved their worth where it counts - on the racetrack. The "fully priced" gang is led by The Green Monkey, who was sold for $16m as a two year old but has yet to race. He hails from Todd Pletcher's stable, which has five that did make the Derby, including a couple of million-dollar-plus yearlings -- Cowtown Cat and Any Given Saturday.

Topping the list of Moneyball types is long shot Teufelsberg, who was purchased for $9,000 as a yearling. Bill Finley has the story in today's NY Times:

Teuflesberg may not be the fastest or most talented horse in this year’s Derby, but he has clearly been the biggest bargain among the 20 entered. He has already earned $385,431 and has won two stakes races.

“He’s not a $9,000 horse,” said [ed: trainer Jamie] Sanders ... “He was just overlooked. He looked beautiful when we looked at him at the barn. Donnie and I thought there was no way we could get close to this horse. He was just a standout. We thought he’d go for $200,000 at least.”

Sanders believes Teuflesberg sold for so little because he was among the last of nearly 1,000 horses to go through the sale, and he sold on a day the weather was bad.

“The only reason we got him for that was because everyone had left,” Sanders said. “He was one of the last horses in the sale, and it was snowing. Everybody was tired and wanted to go home.”

Sometimes it's good to be the only one around who's interested in buying.

Another horse nobody wanted as a yearling was Curlin. Curlin was sired by Smart Strike, whose services sell for $75,000 a pop. But Curlin flopped at the yearling sales, going for $57,000, and producing a loss to his breeders. He never made it to the track at two, but within 48 hours after his smashing debut in February, a majority interest in Curlin sold for a reported $3 million. Not bad for a maiden winner. Homebreds Nobiz Like Shobiz (from a $7,500 stud) and Street Sense ($30,000) round out the candidates for my Moneyball trifecta. The owner of Nobiz turned down an offer of $17m for the colt, which points to the emotional value in these animals that is difficult to monetize. (Teufelsberg's trainer turned down seven figure offers as well, as mentioned in Finley's article) .

Curlin and Street Sense are the two favorites in a wide-open race. We are sure to hear a lot about Barabaro tomorrow, and with him in mind, let's hope they all get home safe.