Kentucky Derby Jockeys: How Much Money Do They Make?

Everyone knows (or, you probably do if you're here) that you can make or lose a lot of money betting on the Kentucky Derby. But how much does the jockey on top of the horse make? We're curious, so we decided to look into how much jockeys in the Kentucky Derby make.

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Trainers and jockeys gear up for the 147th running of the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, May 1st. There is a whopping $3 million prize pool to be won, with a $1.86 million payout being given to the winning horse.

While the horse is ultimately crowned the official winner of the race, there are many faces behind the horse’s success who will also receive a payout — including the trainer, jockey, jockey’s agent, and valet. So, at the end of the day, how much do the jockeys and trainers make?

How Much do Kentucky Derby Jockeys Make?

Jockeys who rode a winning horse generally receive 10% of the total prize money. Though it may initially appear to be a hefty payday, almost half of it will go toward paying the jockey’s agent (25%), valet (5%), and taxes (approx. 30%).

Runner-up and 3rd place jockeys will typically receive 5% of the horse owner’s total winnings, while 4th and 5th place jockeys take home around 3%. If the horse doesn’t place the jockey won’t get as big of a payday in the end, but will instead only make anywhere from $100 to a few hundred, depending on the horse they rode. Not bad for a two minute race.

Here’s a breakdown of what the 1st place jockey’s final pay might look like:

Gross pay to winning horse owner: $1.86 million
What jockey receives: $186,000
30% to agent and valet: $55,800
Taxes: approximately 30% (for this amount)
Total Payday: $74,400 approx.

For runner-up jockeys:

Gross pay to 2nd place horse owner: $600,000
What jockey receives: $30,000
30% to agent and valet: $9,000
Total Payday: $21,000 (minus taxes)

For 3rd place jockeys:

Gross pay to 3rd place horse owner: $300,000
What jockey receives: $15,000
30% to agent and valet: $4,500
Total Payday: $10,500 (minus taxes)

4th and 5th place jockeys will receive $4,500 and $2,500, respectively. After paying 30% to their agent and valet, they’ll walk away with $3,150 and $1.750, respectively.

D. Wayne Lukas horse trainer

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has 4 Kentucky Derby wins under his belt. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

How Much do Horse Trainers Make?

The trainers of winning horses will also receive 10% of the total prize winnings. Since they won’t usually need to pay any agents or valets, they’ll walk away with a cool $87,000 approximately, after taxes.

For day rates, it usually depends on the level of experience of the trainer, as well as the size of the racetrack. Ownerview.com says that the average daily cost for a trainer is $50 per day at a smaller racetrack, to as much as $120 per day for a larger racing venue. If the horse owner also needs to board their horse at the trainer’s barn, they can charge an additional boarding fee.

Ownerview conducted a survey in 2014 of over 270 thoroughbred horse owners to find the average yearly cost of owning and maintaining a racehorse. For training alone, the yearly cost is approximately $23,720, which comes down to just over $1,976 per month.

When it comes to the richest horse trainers, here are the 10 richest horse trainers around the world by overall race earnings:

The Richest Horse Trainers

  • Todd A. Pletcher
    • Earnings: $423 million
    • WPS/Start: 52%
  • Steven M. Asmussen
    • Earnings: $376 million
    • WPS/Start: 51%
  • Bob Baffert
    • Earnings: $329 million
    • WPS/Start: 54%
  • Wiliam I. Mott:
    • Earnings: $306 million
    • WPS/Start: 49%
  • D. Wayne Lukas
    • Earnings: $284 mllion
    • WPS/Start: 43%
  • Robert J. Frankel
    • Earnings: $227 million
    • WPS/Start: 52%
  • Jerry Hollendorfer
    • Earnings: $204 million
    • WPS/Start: 54%
  • Mark E. Casse
    • Earnings: $158 million
    • WPS/Start: 44%
  • Claude R. McGaughy lll
    • Earnings: $158 million
    • WPS/Start: 53%
  • Christophe Clement
    • Earnings: $149 million
    • WPS/Start: 51%

If a trainer trains with 10 horses each month for a year, they could make over $19,760 per month, and over $237,120 per year — and that’s just training fees!

If even one horse trained places 1st in the Kentucky Derby, their total yearly income will pass $361,000.

Who is the Richest Jockey of All Time?

The richest horse racing jockey of all time is Japan’s Yutaka Take, who’s been jockeying since 1987. Take has earned approximately $19 million USD over his 2-year career, or ¥1,876,843,000 JPY. His net worth is

Horse racing is quite popular in Japan, bringing in an average total purse of ¥1,544,720 in 2020.

But who’s the richest jockey right now as of 2024? Take is also the richest jockey as of publishing in the industry. In the United States, John R. Velazquez has the highest all-time total earnings at $448 million. His net worth is estimated to be over $300 million.

Read our Kentucky Derby Betting Guide for the latest odds, best bets & more. 

Joseph Ellison

Joseph is a dedicated journalist and horse racing fanatic who has been writing about sports and casinos for over a decade. He has worked with some of the UK's top bookmakers and provides Premier League soccer tips on a regular basis. You'll likely find him watching horse racing or rugby when he isn't writing about sport.

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