The 2018 Kentucky Derby purse is a total of $2 million. According to Sporting News, the winning race team will earn an estimated $1.24 million, more than half of the total purse. The prize money in horse racing is a bit more complicated than most sports with the owners getting the majority of the money, and jockeys getting a portion of the winnings. Many of the top 2018 contenders have multiple ownership groups meaning the money is divided among the group depending on the ownership agreement.
The Triple Crown organization traditionally releases the full purse breakdown, but did not do so for 2018. Based on past data, $400,000 is expected to be awarded for second place. Third place earns $200,000, fourth place receives $100,000 and fifth place is awarded $60,000.
According to CNBC, the winning jockey gets 10 percent of the winnings which equates to about $124,000 in 2018. CNBC also estimates the agent gets 25 percent of this money for booking the ride. According to CNBC, This is all before taxes, and the majority of Derby jockeys will not make more than a couple hundred dollars.
Being a jockey can be a lucrative profession for top riders, but the majority of riders will never be wealthy. CNN detailed the plight of jockeys in a 2015 report, and explained some of the current efforts being made on behalf of jockeys.
Many jockeys are also gravely injured. Seventy-one riders are currently being helped by the Permanently Disabled Jockey Fund, a charity set up by the Guild. But that only pays about $1,000 a month.
The charity has no permanent source of funds, despite all the money spent on the sport by wealthy horse owners, fans and race tracks. It’s even held bake sales to raise money.
William Farish is one prominent owner who’s been very supportive of the fund. He says that jockeys face risks comparable to NFL football players, with a fraction of the resources available to them.
‘I firmly believe an endowment needs to be built up to take care of these jockeys,” he said. “There is no other source of income for them.’
The 2018 Kentucky Derby field is the deepest we have seen in recent memory. Justify entered the race as the favorite to win. The horse has the backing of trainer Bob Baffert along with experienced jockey Mike Smith. Justify entered the Kentucky Derby coming off a dominant performance at the Santa Anita Derby. Mendelssohn was next in line thanks to his dominant win in Dubai. The horse won the UAE Derby by 18 1/2 lengths, and would be the first winner of the race to go on to win the Kentucky Derby. Mendelssohn was also looking to be the first European-trained horse to win the Kentucky Derby.
Audible entered the race as another contender thanks to his Florida Derby victory. Todd Pletcher led Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming to a Run for the Roses win in 2017. Pletcher was looking to do the same thing with Audible. The Kentucky Derby is far from the biggest purse. According to Horse Racing Nation, the Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park had a $16 million purse in 2018.