The National Football League draft is well known for its surprises. A future Hall-of-Fame quarterback like Tom Brady is drafted in the sixth round by the New England Patroits, while some absolute busts have gone at the top of the first round. The same hit and miss process also characterizes the dicey business of selecting future racehorses.

Following is a list of the first five finishers in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and the respective sale prices at auction for four of them:

I’ll Have Another, $11,000 as yearling and $35,000 as a 2-year-old

Bodemeister, $260,000

Dullahan, $250,000

Went the Day Well (did not sell at auction)

Creative Cause $135,000

According to the Wall Street Journal, twelve of the twenty entrants in the Kentucky Derby sold at auction. The average auction price for their last sale was $183,000.

In 2010, headlines in racing publications were devoted to sales of seven-figure yearlings. By May of 2012, the media spotlight had turned to an $11,000 yearling that epitomized the adage “pretty is as pretty does.”  In fact, the total paid at public auction (as yearlings) for the first three finishers in the Kentucky Derby was $521,000.

In spite of refined computer-aided techniques of pedigree analysis and scientifically-based methods for evaluating conformation that are often brought to bear on choosing yearling racehorse prospects, in the end the task is far more art than science, with a heavy dose of luck thrown in.

Isn’t that much of the allure of the sport? A relative small fry buying a few yearlings or a share of a partnership offering has a chance to compete with the most deep-pocketed owners.

When a 3-year-old racehorse is called on to stay in deep stretch in the Kentucky Derby or Belmont Stakes, he doesn’t know how much he cost at auction.

Copyright © 2012 Horse Racing Business