Ex-Dodger Jayson Werth got a horse in Kentucky Derby in two years

Minds were blown when former Dodgers outfielder Jayson Werth agreed to a seven-year, $126-million free-agent contract with the Washington Nationals during the 2010 winter meetings.

So much money! So many years!

General managers gnashed their teeth. Another example of agent Scott Boras hoodwinking one of their own, they said. The precedent, the impact on the market, the insanity! New York Mets chief executive Sandy Alderson at least coated his response in humor: “I thought they were trying to reduce the deficit in Washington.”

And for Werth? Yes, he shined in the 2008 and 2009 postseasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, helping them to two World Series and one title. But didn’t the Dodgers unceremoniously release him rather than offer arbitration after he missed the 2006 season because of injury?

Today the contract would be considered a low-ball offer. Werth, meanwhile, finished his solid 15-year career in 2017 with considerable financial assets. And even though he initially got into organic farming, most of his interests gravitate to competition.

As a player he owned and operated a small mixed martial arts company called Capital City Cage Wars. A couple years ago, he jumped into horse racing, not betting on races but owning race horses.

And, voila, Werth has a horse, Dornoch, in the 150th Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Kentucky Derby hopefuls Dornoch, front, and Endlessly work out Tuesday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Dornoch is a 20-1 shot to win Saturday’s race.

(Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

“It is the only thing that I can do at this point in my life that has any relevance to what I did for so long,” Werth told the Washington Post. “And then the day of the race that your horse is running, the nerves — I mean, I never got nervous for baseball. I had a job to do, and I knew I was going to do it.

“But this? You know, the hair on the back of your neck stands up. When they’re running, and they’re coming down the front straightaway, there’s so much at stake. … It’s the only thing I can do where I feel those emotions that I did when I was playing, the competitive juices. You want to win so bad.”

Werth’s company — Two Eight Racing LLC is a nod to his MLB jersey number, 28 — owns 10% of Dornoch, a 20-1 shot to win at Churchill Downs. The 3-year-old colt was purchased for $325,000, so Werth’s investment was a modest $35,000. Dornoch is one of several dozen race horses owned in part by Two Eight Racing.

Post position in the Kentucky Derby is by blind draw, and Dornoch was unlucky enough to get the No. 1 spot, which puts him next to the rail on his left with little room to maneuver out of the gate.

Werth, however, sounds happy to be there. He knows how it is to be dealt a tough hand — he said the Dodgers misdiagnosed the torn ulnotriquetral ligament in his left wrist and owner Jamie McCourt had him seen by an eccentric healer named Vladimir Shpunt.

Yet Werth finished his career strong, posting his best numbers after turning 30 and recognizing his good fortune in finding a team that believed in his ability. Maybe the same will hold true for Dornoch.

“People dump millions of dollars every year into horses just to try to get into the Derby,” he told the Washington Post. “So people are like: ‘Wait. You’ve been doing this for two years and you’ve already got a horse in the Derby? People do this their whole lives and have never gotten a horse in the Derby.’

“And I’m like: ‘Yeah, I know. I know. It’s not lost on me.’ What we’ve been a part of here is insane.”