Money foolishly spent goes hand-in-hand with the Kentucky Derby. Whether you're scraping together three or four-hundred bucks for the ugliest hat this side of the Ohio River or conning your clueless co-workers into supporting a can't-miss Derby superfecta ticket, green is the color of the roses.
So it comes as little surprise this Kentucky Derby season that a poorly named colt dubbed The Green Monkey was the worst-spent money on the campaign trail. How bad? Sixteen million bad. That's 16 with six zeroes. And zero being the operative word: zero career starts, zero career earnings. I've left more change in the seats of cars retired to the salvage yard in my lifetime.
But cry not for the Monkey's men, owner Michael Tabor and trainer Todd Pletcher. Big-money Taber still fires twice this Derby go-'round with Circular Quay (whom he owns outright and bred) and Scat Daddy (whom he purchased co-interest in along with Jim Scatuorchio). Pletcher not only trains that duo, but also three additional Derby players -- Sam P., Any Given Saturday and Cowtown Cat.
The Green Monkey won't be in the Derby field, of course. He hasn't had even a workout since a brief appearance last August at Saratoga. After being a $16 million purchase as a 2-year-old in training, he's become the poster child for how not to win the Kentucky Derby. Not that any of us common folk need a reminder that writing a $16 million check for a four-legged athlete is good sense.
This year's Derby won't be without big-dollar investments, however. The Green Monkey's stablemates, Cowtown Cat and Any Given Saturday, sold at auction for $1.5 million and $1.1 million, respectively. Likely favorite Curlin, a hotshot winner of a mere three races, sold privately for a reported $3.5 million after his debut win. But that's a far cry from $16 million.
As for Derby 133's bargain basement pick-ups, try on the likes of Teuflesberg, purchased for a scant $9,000 on the final day of a yearling sale when pouring rains sent prospective bidders packing early. Or, Storm In May, whose one bad eye and one good one added up to a $16,000 pricetag.
So what could have been more shrewdly purchased with that $16 million in "Monkey" business?
All 20 of this year's Kentucky starters would cost much, much less. Based on actual auction prices and estimates on the homebreds, maybe about 13 million give or take a few bags of feed.
The 8 most-expensive horses to ever run in the Kentucky Derby -- combined. Even though that would have netted you 2000 champ Fusaichi Pegasus and 2004 runner-up Lion Heart, their combined Derby Day earnings of $1,358,400 still leaves you about $14.6 mil in the hole. God bless breeding rights!
All 24 Kentucky Derby winners purchased at auction since 1960, for a mere $6.2 million -- leaving you $9.8 million of beer money (which might buy two or three watered-down rounds on Derby Day).
The point is this: as you watch this week's Kentucky Derby and the gloved hands waving from the ritzy boxed seats, blue collar still reigns in this blue-collar town. Funny Cide originally sold for $22,000; War Emblem for $20,000; Real Quiet a mere $17,000. Then there's Lil E. Tee for $25,000; Sunday Silence for $32,000 and the great Seattle Slew for $17,500.
Granted, inflation puts Seattle Slew at about a $70,000 purchase by 2007 standards. Still, wouldn't you rather have one Seattle Slew over 941 The Green Monkeys.
Don't answer that. Just spot me a c-note and get behind me in that superfecta line. I've got a can't-miss feel for this year's Derby result.
Jeremy Plonk is the editor of The HorsePlayer Magazine and its Web site, HorsePlayerdaily.com.