How Much Do Kentucky Derby Jockeys Make?

2 years ago
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Are you a jockey in the making or a horseracing fan wanting to know: How much do Kentucky Derby jockeys make? The amount Kentucky Derby jockeys make might seem like a huge sum at first. It’s normal to think so when you see the participants riding gallantly in their bid to emerge the winner. However, you might be shocked when you realize how much Kentucky Derby Jockeys make if they win a race. Let’s find out.

A winning jockey receives 10% of the horse’s payout, and the second or third place takes 5%. So, when the winning horse owner gets $1.86 million, the jockey gets $186,000. While this amount might still seem impressive, these jockeys still spend 30% of the money on tax. In the end, Kentucky Derby Jockeys make about $74,000 or less.

Read on to discover more about this exciting horseracing event.

What is the Kentucky Derby?

The Kentucky Derby is a prestigious horse race with a global audience. It takes place each year in May at Churchill Downs racecourse. Thousands of people dress up in their finest to witness this sport and place their bets during the event.

The Kentucky Derby is the only one among the three Triple Crown races that run continuously. Winning any Triple Crown race is a beautiful achievement but winning in the Kentucky Derby is special. That’s also one of the reasons why many are always curious to learn how much Kentucky Derby Jockeys make.

How Much do Kentucky Derby Jockeys Make?

In most cases, Kentucky Derby Jockeys make 10% of the total prize money if they ride a winning horse. Though it appears to be a hefty sum, they have to sort some bills from the money. A winning jockey’s agent receives 25%, the valet gets 5%, and about 30% tax.

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The total amount a winning horse owner receives is $1.86 million. The jockey gets $186,000, the agent and valet receive $55,800. After spending 30% on taxes, the remaining payment for the jockey is about $74,400.

Runner-up and third-place riders receive 5% of the total winnings of the horse owner. But 4th and 5th-place jockeys receive roughly 3%. If the jockey didn’t get a position, they would receive about $100, depending on the horse they rode.

Therefore, the runner-up horse owner receives $600,000, and the jockey gets $30,000. Owners also spend 30% on the agent and valet, about $9,000. So, the amount Kentucky Derby Jockeys make from second place is $21,000 after paying taxes.

For 3rd place jockeys, the horse owner receives $300,000, and the jockey gets $15,000. $4,500 goes to the agent and valet. Then, after paying taxes, the jockey gets $10,500.

Kentucky Derby Jockeys make $4,500 and $2,500 for fourth and fifth place, respectively. They’ll walk away with $3,150 and $1.750 after paying 30% to their agent and valet. 

We can refer to jockeys as gig workers because they work for themselves. So, as a jockey, you will pay for your equipment like helmet, saddle, and whip. A jockey gets a mounting fee of about $110 for each race they run, extra cash to their pockets.

Brilliant Records of Kentucky Derby Jockeys

Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack are both jockeys who have won the Kentucky Derby five times each. They share the record for the most Derby wins in a career. Both have ridden the two horses that have finished the Derby in less than two minutes.

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In 1973, the horse Secretariat set a new record, winning in less than two minutes. Runner-up Sham came in two and a half lengths behind Secretariat, which some people said he also broke two minutes.

Monarchos won the 2001 Derby in 1:59.97, and he became only the second horse to break the two-minute mark. Ben Jones broke the Derby record and was the only trainer whose horses won six Kentucky Derby. However, the most excellent Derby upset happened in 1913 when Donerail triumphed against the odds of 91–1.

In 1915, Regret was the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby back in 1915. Genuine Risk and Winning Colors are the only other fillies that have won since then.

The All-Time Richest Jockeys

Aside from winning horses, a few Jockeys became wealthy from the sport. Let’s look at how much these Kentucky Derby Jockeys make:

Yutaka Take

Yutaka Take is a Japanese racer who began racing in 1987. He has earned 83.8 billion yen or 649.8 million pounds in his career. Take’s earnings are double that of top American jockey John Velazquez.

John Velazquez

John Velazquez is an American jockey. With 33,350 rides and 6,089 victories, he has amassed a total of $406,464,317 in his career. Since 1990, he has been riding horses to success, and he currently leads the American jockeys’ winnings list.

Javier Castellano

In 1996, Javier Castellano began racing, and in 1997, he went to the United States to pursue his dream. He won the most money from 2013 to 2016, winning $332,410,325, ranking him third.

Christophe Lemaire

Christophe Lemaire is a French and Japanese jockey. Though he broke Take’s record in 2017 and 2018 with 215 victories, he is far behind Take.

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He spent 12 years riding in Japan and France before settling in France in 2018. Lemaire has amassed a total of 209,623,954 Pounds in his lifetime, which is rather astounding.

Bill Shoemaker

Bill Shoemaker is an American jockey. He rode in almost 40,000 races and earned $123,375,524 in prizes from 1949 to 1990. Despite this, the amount he earnings doubled because of the constant change in currency value at that time.

Frankie Dettori

Frankie Dettori has worked with Sheikh Mohammed for 20 years, giving him the chance to ride several beautiful horses. For example, Dettori has raced in Ireland and the United States. He has also run in Dubai, Europe, Hong Kong, and Japan, earning about 147.4 million pounds.

Ryan Moore

Ryan Moore is the only rider in the United Kingdom to earn more than £8 million in a single season. He is an English flat racing jockey who rides Coolmore Stud horses and has won 125,456,518 Pounds in his career.


Though the winning horse receives the crown at the end of the race, the jockeys don’t go unrecognized. Kentucky Derby Jockeys make their money from taking the challenge and riding these beautiful creatures. There have also been some fantastic records that fans would never forget since the onset of the Kentucky Derby.

If you’re interested in finding out how much other professions earn, you can find all our Pay Scale articles here.

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