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Derby Field Has Bargain Horses

At the 2010 Keeneland Yearling Sale, bargain hunter Bob Zollars had his eye #1475.

Unable to spend big for a horse by a top sire, Zollars followed the family history of the horse’s mother, Follow Your Bliss, whose was fathered by Thunder Gulch, best known for his win in the 1995 Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes.

At an auction where the average horse sold for $65,000, Zollars got Daddy Nose Best for $35,000.

"I thought he’d be very questionable whether I could afford him or not, but apparently he just got passed over by other people and they liked other horses a little bit better than him," Zollars said.

Horse ownership is a rich man's game, but that doesn't mean Derby winners all cost a fortune.

That's because horses, like in any sport, slip through the cracks.

The chances that horse purchased will make the Derby is about 1 in 500, considering this year's field of 14 horses that were purchased and six that were home bred.

Of the 12 horses whose last sale price is known the average price spent for a Derby horse is $183,000.

Zollars' Daddy Nose best is the second cheapest in the field, tied with I'll Have Another ($35K) and surpassed by Trinniberg, which sold for $21,000.

How Much Did That Derby Horse Cost?

Trinniberg $21,000
Daddy Nose Best $35,000
I'll Have Another $35,000
Daddy Long Legs $100,000
Sabercat $120,000
Creative Cause $135,000
El Padrino $210,000
Prospective $250,000
Dullahan $250,000
Bodemeister $260,000
Gemologist $310,000
Union Rags $390,000
Sources: Bloodhorse.com, Various

Walt Robertson, who auctioned off the horse, already named Daddy Knows Best, says the horse’s sire that no one paid attention to became the star.

"He was by a horse called Scat Daddy and Scat Daddy was a young, unproven horse," Robertson said. "Today everybody’s looking at that horse a little differently because today he happens to have two horses in the Kentucky Derby."

That other Derby horse is Daddy Long Legs, which sold for $100,000.

The most expensive horse in the Derby is the favorite Union Rags, which Phyllis Wyeth sold for $145,000. After a dream about the horse gave her seller's remorse, she bought Union Rags back for $390,000.

Zollars bet has paid off big to the tune of $633,600 in winnings. (On Saturday, he is starting one of the cheapest horses in the field, with a chance to win more than $1 million in the Run For the Roses.

"It’s hard to find a gem, but there are lot of gems at those lower levels and it’s the same thing as in any sport," Zollars said. "There are a lot of great athletes that their parents weren’t that athletic. On the other hand, there are some great athletes that are the sons of some very athletic parents."

Take, for example, a horse named Mr. Besilu, fathered by the top sire at the time, A.P. Indy. The horse was purchased for $4.2 million, the highest price paid for a thoroughbred in 2010. The horse has yet to race.

A horse named Mr. Besilu sold in the same auction as Daddy Nose Best for $4.2 million, it was the highest price paid for a thoroughbred in 2010. The horse has yet to race.

Questions? Comments? SportsBiz@cnbc.com