It's a long road to the Kentucky Derby, but we've finally turned the last corner and are heading into the final stretch of race day. No doubt the real grand prize in the race is the prestige of winning the first part of the American Triple Crown, but a little bit of money probably doesn't hurt. So how much does the Kentucky Derby winner get? The payout is definitely a deal sweetener.
Saturday's race is the first in a three-part series of the American Triple Crown: The Kentucky Derby is followed by the Preakness Stakes, then, finally, the Belmont Stakes. The Kentucky Derby, held annually the first Saturday in May, is by far the most popular of the three, and is often called "the Race for the Roses," which tips its hat to the blanket of roses draped on the winning horse.
But owners can rest assured that they'll be getting way more than an absurd bouquet and a gold trophy. The winner of the Kentucky Derby takes home an estimated $1.24 million, with the runner-up bagging $400,00, third place taking home $200,000, $100,000 to fourth, and $60,000 to fifth. So even if they don't win the whole thing, owners of the top five horses can expect some sort of payout.
Perhaps the reason that there is so much pomp and circumstance behind the Kentucky Derby is because it has the biggest payout for its winner. The Kentucky Derby's purse — the total amount of money split between the five top horses — is $2 million. But the purses for Preakness and Belmont are $1.5 million, which is then divided among the other top finishers, just as it is with the Kentucky Derby. The winner of the Belmont Stakes, for example, takes home $800,000, then the rest is rewarded on a tier level for the top eight horses, giving more people a piece of the pie. The winner of Preakness gets a little more, at $900,000 for the top spot, and the rest is divided up between four other finishers.
So the big payout could be the reason that more people turn out for the Kentucky Derby than the other American Triple Crown races. Or it could be that it starts an ever-so-brief season of big hats, springtime cocktails, and totally acceptable day drinking. Whatever the reason, the Kentucky Derby is upon us, and the winner is looking at a pretty sweet payout.