The Kentucky Derby takes place on the first Saturday in May every year. The 144th Running for the Roses will take place on Saturday, May 5, just after 6:30 p.m. Eastern.
Jockeys will mount their horses to compete in the “fastest two minutes in sports.” The winning jockey and his horse will arrive in the winner’s circle after the race. The jockey will be joined by the horse’s owner(s) and trainer.
The winning jockey will take home 10 percent of the horse’s prize money.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Luis Saez Is Riding the 2018 Derby Favorite, Magnum Moon
Luis Saez moved to the United States from Panama City in 2009. His first Triple Crown race came a few years later when he mounted Freedom Child in the 2013 Belmont Stakes.
In 2014, tragedy struck the Saez family. The then 22-year-old lost his brother, Juan, who was an aspiring horse jockey.
“During an October race in Indiana, [Juan Saez’s] horse clipped heels with another horse. He was thrown from the horse. He never got up,” the Sun Sentinel reported in 2015. His official cause of death was head trauma. He was just 17 years old.
Luis Saez continued racing after his brother’s tragic death, and has become one of the most successful jockeys in the game.
Luis Saez is already having an incredible 2018. In January, he won seven out of nine mounts at Gulfstream Park, winning on Lawless Lady in Race 2, Admirable Kiss in Race 3, Charge Card in Race 5, Appa in Race 7, Emperor John in Race 8, Arch Daddy in Race 9, and on Arcelor in Race 10.
“I come here every day to try to win a race. When I won the first two races, I feel like we’d have a good day and the horses kept running good for me,” he told the media after the race.
In this year’s Kentucky Derby, Saez will mount Magnum Moon, the current front-runner on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
“Ridden by Luis Saez, Magnum Moon ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.86, going gate to wire and pulling away in the stretch to win by 4 lengths over Quip and Solomini, both Kentucky Derby qualifiers. Magnum Moon was a heavy 4-5 favorite and paid $3.60 in winning the Arkansas Derby.”
Magnum Moon is owned by Robert and Lawana Low and is trained by Todd Pletcher, who celebrated a Derby victory in 2017. Magnum Moon has 150 points going into today’s race. He finished first at the Rebel Stakes on March 17 and again at the Arkansas Derby on April 14.
2. Jockey John Velazquez Won the 2017 Kentucky Derby Atop Always Dreaming & Is Riding Vino Rosso This Year
Last year, jockey John Velazquez rode to his second Kentucky Derby victory, this time aboard the consensus favorite, Always Dreaming, a Todd Pletcher-trained colt. Always Dreaming, a front-running horse, had a clear lead by the halfway point and never looked back.
“He responded right away. I think we came into the derby with a much better horse than we have in the past,” Velasquez told the media, according to CBS Sports. “Today was a different story. Got a nice position going to the wire. He got to relax and then waited to the quarter pole and he responded right away,” he added.
The win was Velazquez’s second of his career, having ridden Animal Kingdom to the winner’s circle back in 2011. This year, Velazquez will mount Vino Rosso, another Pletcher-trained colt, looking to become the third jockey of the 21st century to post back-to-back Kentucky derby wins.
According to the Kentucky Derby’s official website, Vino Rosso is owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable. The colt’s ownership is notable because last year’s winner, Always Dreaming, is also part-owned by St. Elias Stable, owned by Vincent Viola, who also owns the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers and was formerly President Donald Trump’s nominee for United States Secretary of the Army.
3. The Average Weight of a Horse Jockey Is Between 109 to 116 Pounds & the Average Height Is Between 4’10” to 5’6″
A jockey’s height and weight is very important, as these athletes must be both nimble and strong. Most jockeys weigh somewhere between 105 and 119 pounds, and their weight tends to fluctuate — especially before a race.
There is no maximum or minimum height for a jockey, but most tend to be short because of the weight requirements. Most jockeys only stand about 5’0″ tall.
Below is a list of the heights of the most well-known jockeys in the sport.
4. A Jockey Makes Around $100,000 Per Year & Earns 10 Percent of the Kentucky Derby Purse if His Horse Wins
Horse jockeys earn decent salaries, even if they aren’t competing in the Kentucky Derby. Although not all jockeys earn six figures, most see approximately $100,000 to $200,000 per year. However, some of the best horse jockeys in the business — especially the ones you will see riding in the Kentucky Derby — are millionaires.
For each race, a jockey is paid a “mount fee,” which varies from race to race. A typical mount fee could be $40, but for the Kentucky Derby, it is usually more like $500. Some jockeys ride in more than 1,000 races per year and are able to make their livings on mount fees alone. Many jockeys collect multiple fees in one day, according to Forbes Magazine.
In addition to their annual salaries and mount fees, horse jockeys earn money when their horses do well in a given race. For the Kentucky Derby, for example, jockeys that guide their horses to a top five finish earn 10 percent of their horse’s total winnings.
Here is a look at the top five earning jockeys of 2018 so far, according to Equibase.
5. Their Uniforms, Also Known as Silks, Are Colorful & Aerodynamic
A jockey’s uniform, also known as a silk, is specially made. Not only is it comprised of materials that are breathable and flexible, but it’s durable as well. Since a jockey needs to be agile, his silk needs to fit just right.
“A jockey’s uniform is made up of tight fitting breeches and a shirt, along with a cap. Tailors fit each uniform to its owner and it acts as his protection as well. For example, a jockey’s helmet is supposed to protect his head if he falls. The uniform also includes a protective vest that goes under the shirt, boots and a cravat. The uniform style has changed little since the early days of the sport,” according to Healthfully.
Another interesting thing about a silk is its color. You’ll probably notice that jockeys are often wearing colorful patterns on their shirts. This has to do with the owner of the horse. The jockey wears the colors and patterns associated with the horse’s owner on his silk and on his helmet (sometimes on his socks too). If he mounts a horse owned by a different person, he changes his silk.
According to Horse Info, a silk can cost anywhere from $150 to $250. And, in case you were wondering just how important silks are:
“There is a Color Custodian (track employee) whose job it is to keep silks in an orderly manner, provide them to the valets for each race, and wash and dry them after each use. A track’s local silksmaker often works with the track to make minor repairs to silks,” Horse Info reports.