Kentucky Derby Horses: Price, Entry Fee & Cost

Kentucky Derby Horse Cost

Getty Owning a Kentucky Derby horse is a pricey endeavor.

The price of a Kentucky Derby horse is much different than the total cost of a Churchill Downs contender. Omaha Beach, the 2019 Kentucky Derby favorite before being scratched, was purchased for less than $625,000 after the horse failed to meet his reserve price. The price of a Derby horse varies even among contenders as Improbable cost $200,000, much less than Omaha Beach’s estimated purchase price.

The Kentucky Derby has a $25,000 entry fee and an additional $25,000 for the starting fee, per The Downey Profile. The 2011 Kentucky Derby champion I’ll Have Another was just $35,000 and later sold for $10 million, per NBC Philadelphia. Whatever the price is to purchase the racehorse is just the start of expenses for the ownership group. Once the horse is purchased there are other costs to account for including training, vet care, insurance, licensing and entry fees.

According to NBC Philadelphia, training can run between $30,000 to $50,000 per year at top tracks. Veterinarian ranges from $300 to $700 a month. Then there is the cost to transport the horse to different races. Why are owners willing to spend so much money up front? Aside from the love for the sport, stud fees for top horses can bring in thousands of dollars.

Horses Like American Pharoah & Tapit Have Stud Fees That Top $300,000

According to The New York Times, American Pharoah’s stud fees started at $200,000 before the pricing became private. Tapit demands $300,000 thanks to his breeding history despite not having nearly the same racing accomplishments as a horse like American Pharoah.

“A horse like American Pharoah may breed four times a day,” Sunnyfield Farm manager John Grau told The New York Times. “Some of those top stallions can breed over 200 mares in a season and then go to the Southern Hemisphere and breed again.”

Kentucky Derby Horses Can Range From a Few Thousand Dollars to Close to $1 Million

The Wall Street Journal conducted a study on the 2014 Kentucky Derby field and found seven of the 21 horses were purchased for less than $100,000. California Chrome was purchased for $2,000 and ended up winning at Churchill Downs. The field of horses ranged from $2,000 to $380,000.

Some owners are willing to pay nearly $1 million for a horse with the right pedigree that looks like it could be a major racehorse in the future. The challenge is there is often not a direct correlation between the horse’s purchase price and even their chances of making the Kentucky Derby.

Despite paying a premium price, chances are your horse will never compete in the Kentucky Derby. ESPN broke down the odds in a 2013 article noting 1.4 percent of thoroughbred horses were nominated to the Triple Crown.

According to the Churchill Downs communications department, approximately 26,000 thoroughbreds were foaled in the United States in 2010. Just 1.4 percent (369) of those horses were nominated to the Triple Crown, and only 20 will race on Saturday in the 139th Kentucky Derby.

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