Sports Biz with Darren Rovell

Kentucky Derby Doesn't Make Jockeys Rich

In the hours after tomorrow's Kentucky Derby, America will learn of the winner's owners and get a glimpse into the finances of it all — how much was paid for the horse and how much the owners made.

The field rounds turn one during the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 2, 2009 at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.
Getty Images

Left out of the conversation is the pay of the jockey, who has reached the pinnacle of his sport in this race, but won't exactly earn a small fortune, no matter how the race turns out.

For one jockey, it's a nice payday. For the others, it's not much more than meal money.

Here's how it works.

The owner of the winning horse in this year's Run for the Roses will make $1,425,000. Ten percent of that prize goes to the winning jockey, making his gross take $142,500. Twenty five percent of that will go to his agent, who is responsible for picking and negotiating his ride. That brings it down to $106,875 and then there's the tip for the valet, the guy that gets all the jockey's gear in place. That percentage is at least five percent. So, at the most, the winning jockey is coming away with $101,531.25.

And that's before taxes.

But the even better, and perhaps sadder, story is what the jockeys who risk their lives on these giant animals in their sport's biggest race make if they don't place first.

The second and third place riders get five percent of their owner's take ($400,000 and $200,000, respectively). The second place jockey with a check of $20,000 and the third place jockey of $10,000. By the time fees are paid off, it's closer to $14,000 and $7,000.

As for anything out of the money, jockey agent Ron Anderson told me the ride for the 17 other jockeys is worth "a couple hundred dollars apiece."

At least, the jockeys don't have to pay for parking like they did up until about seven years ago.

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