How much does the winning Preakness Stakes jockey earn?

May 19th, 2022

Jockeys turning up to the Preakness Stakes are riding for much more than prestige. For them, it’s also the opportunity at one of the biggest paydays for the year.

Last year, there were only nine races in the United States that offered more prize money than the $1.65 million total prize that is available for the 2022 Preakness Stakes. So the human athlete responsible for guiding the horse from the starting gate to the finish line in first place has plenty of financial incentive.

How the Preakness Stakes winner divides the purse

However, not all the $1.65 million goes to the winner. And of the portion that does, several other parties also take home a large amount.

Of the $1.65 million total purse, the connections of the winner earn 60%. So, for the Preakness, that amount is $990,000. A very tidy sum, indeed.

The people who get the biggest share of that $990,000 are the horse’s owners. This is because they are the ones who pay all the bills to look after the horse. They have the biggest financial investment in the horse, so they get about 80% of the prize money.

The horse’s trainer — the one who physically looks after the horse, stables it, gets it fit, and keeps an eye on its health, among other things — usually gets 10% of the prize money.

Payout to the winning Preakness Stakes jockey

The remaining 10% of the prize money — in the case of the Preakness Stakes, $99,000 — goes to the jockey. However, not all of it remains in their pocket.

The vast majority of jockeys have agents, who play a big part in dealing with owners and trainers to arrange rides so the jockey can concentrate on their fitness and riding skills. The agents traditionally pay their agents 25% of their cut, reducing their Preakness money by $24,750.

Next, they usually tip 5% to the valet who helped prepare his or her gear for the race. That takes out another $4,950, leaving them with $69,300.

And, as income earners, jockeys face the same taxes as all of us who work. The proportion of that which goes to the tax collectors depends on how much the jockey earns throughout the year, the state in which they are based, etc. Jockeys are usually regarded as independent contractors rather than employees, so their tax rates follow those rules.

Ultimately, it means they could well find themselves taking home about $45,000 — maybe more, maybe less, depending on the myriad of factors that come into play with taxes.

So, though it’s not going to set a jockey up completely for life, or even the year, $45,000 doesn’t seem like a bad sum for less than two minutes of work. More realistically, when you take into account the danger, hard work, and often diet, over a lifetime to get to a position to ride a Preakness winner, a reward such as this is richly deserved.