Kentucky Derby Purse 2019: How Much Prize Money Does Winner Make?

Kentucky Derby Purse

Getty Jockey Mike Smith pictured with 2018 Kentucky Derby winner Justify.

The 2019 Kentucky Derby has the richest purse in the history of the race at $3 million. The winning horse earns $1.86 million for his team along with the coveted trophy and roses.

According to ESPN, it marks the first time the Kentucky Derby has been raised in 14 years. ESPN noted the purse was able to be increased thanks to betting revenue.

Track president Kevin Flanery attributes the increase to more bettors using historical racing machines — the electronic form of parimutuel betting — at a recently opened facility near the track.

The second and third legs of the Triple Crown offer total purses of $1.5 million in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

The purse is up $1 million from last year’s race and the winner will earn an additional $620,000 than first place did in 2018. Second place earns $600,000, third place takes home $300,000, $150,000 for fourth and $90,000 for fifth place, per the Kentucky Derby.

The Kentucky Derby’s sister race, Kentucky Oaks, was also boosted from $250,000 to $1.25 million in the race featuring the top fillies in the country. Overall, $9.58 million was handed out over the Kentucky Derby week and $12.03 million for the 34-race stakes schedule ending with the Run for the Roses.


The Kentucky Derby Purse Was Increased for the First Time in 14 Years Thanks to Gambling Revenue

The new automated race machines at Churchill Downs are being credited for the increased prize money.

“Our recent investment into historical racing machines is paying immediate dividends to Kentucky horsemen,” Churchill Downs president Kevin Flanery told KentuckyDerby.com. “It’s extremely gratifying to meaningfully raise the purse of the iconic Kentucky Derby and other important racing fixtures on our stakes schedule as we continue to advance the overall racing program at Churchill Downs. Our steady growth in available prize money is truly exciting for the Kentucky horse racing and breeding industry.”

No current trainer has experienced more success at Churchill Downs than Bob Baffert. Heading into the race, Baffert noted he was just hoping to have a chance with one of his three horses at the end.

“I want my horses to show up,” Baffert noted to WLKY. “If they show up and you come in here and you think you have a chance and then they turn for home, they’re not there, and so next thing you know you’re headed to your car.”

The Kentucky Derby is the first leg on the road to the Triple Crown. It can be a lucrative few months for race teams if they are able to win the Triple Crown as Justify did in 2018. Baffert had three of the 2019 Derby favorites heading into the big race.

“I think they’ve all been among the elite 3-year-olds this year,” Baffert explained to Blood Horse. “Game Winner was the champion and he’s right there and has never run a bad race. Roadster, who’s a bit late to the party, ends up winning the grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and has been doing well since. And Improbable was so lucky to get in after his little gate antics (in the Arkansas Derby), which could have been disastrous for him. It’s like one of those Final Four games where you win the semifinal by a basket and you get in the final and win the whole thing.

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