Kentucky Derby 2023 Purse: How much prize money the winning owner and trainer will earn

May 6th, 2023

The Kentucky Derby (G1) is the most coveted prize in U.S. horse racing. The historic 1 1/4-mile race has been contested every year since 1875, and winning the Derby is a career-defining achievement.

The prestige, the place in the history books, the accomplishment of reaching the pinnacle of the sport—those are reasons enough to pursue glory in the Kentucky Derby. But it can also be a lucrative endeavor for the owners and trainers of Kentucky Derby starters, since the prestige is accompanied by a $3 million purse.

How the Kentucky Derby purse is paid out

Unsurprising for a sport built on betting, participating in the Kentucky Derby is a monetary gamble. Nominating a horse to the Kentucky Derby costs $600 at the earliest deadline, but actually entering the race costs $25,000 and starting in the race costs another $25,000. And there’s no guarantee of recouping even a portion of that investment.

A typical race at Churchill Downs pays out at least a small portion of the purse to every starter, but the Kentucky Derby is a high-profile exception. The $3 million purse is split among the first five finishers only, with the winner receiving $1.86 million. Assuming a full field of 20 horses enters, 15 of them (75%) will head home empty-handed.

The complete Kentucky Derby purse breakdown is as follows:

1st: $1.86 million (62%)
2nd: $600,000 (20%)
3rd: $300,000 (10%)
4th: $150,000 (5%)
5th: $90,000 (3%)

How much do the winning owner and trainer earn?

So how is the winning purse money split? Typically, the owner of the winning horse receives 80% of the purse, while the trainer and jockey earn 10% apiece. This means the owner of a Kentucky Derby winner picks up $1.488 million before taxes, while the trainer earns $186,000 before taxes.

However, in this day and age it’s common for racehorses to be owned by partnerships involving two or more people or groups. When Authentic won the 2020 Kentucky Derby, he did so for the partnership of Spendthrift Farm, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing, so the $1.86 million winning purse had to be split among multiple groups.

In addition to the purse money, the winning owner receives a gold trophy, while the trainer, the jockey, and even the breeder of the winning horse receive smaller silver trophies.

History of the Kentucky Derby purse

The monetary value of the Kentucky Derby has come a long way since 1875, when the winner received $2,850 and the runner-up $200. The purse crossed the $100,000 mark in 1946, climbed beyond $1 million in 1996, surged past $2 million in 2005, and finally reached its current $3 million in 2019.