The 2018 Kentucky Derby is less than 24 hours away, and horse racing fans all over America ― and indeed, the world ― are eagerly anticipating the biggest event of the year. And whether you're a longtime fan, or you're coming to the sport for the first time, you might be looking for some information about how it all goes down. For example: how much do Kentucky Derby horse owners make? Exactly how much money do they stand to bring in if their horse scampers across the finish line in first place?
The answer is a little bit complicated, thanks to how the purse system for the race works, but it's not very hard to figure out. Basically, the Kentucky Derby has a $2 million purse to be split up and awarded to the owners and jockeys of the top-five finishing horses. As CBS Sports details, the winning horse is guaranteed to net 62 percent of that total, or $1.24 million.
Not all of that money will go to the owner, however. Some will go to the jockey, although considering they're the ones riding the horses, they ultimately get less of a payout than you might expect. In years past, the jockey has claimed ten percent of the total winnings for their finishing position, meaning a total of $1.24 million would result in $124,000 heading to the jockey. That would leave slightly more than one million in the hands of the horse's owner.
The further down the list your horse finishes, the smaller the proportion of the purse you get to claim. The second-place purse would be $400,000, meaning $40,000 will go to the jockey, leaving $360,000 for the owner. When you get down to the fifth-place finishing horse, which is the lowest that still yields a share of the winnings, there's only $60,000 on the line, with $6,000 due for the jockey.
That's a sizable chunk of change for the owner of the winning horse, although as The New York Times noted in its coverage on Friday, the actual bounty for the owners of Derby-winning horses isn't the prize purse, it's the money they can make through breeding fees.
Horses with exceptional racing pedigrees, after all, are prized for the purposes of breeding, and owners of a Kentucky Derby winner ― the first leg of the vaunted Triple Crown, and basically the premier event in the entire sport ― can charge top-dollar fees for breeding after their horse's racing career is over.
According to the Times, 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah was earning his owner, Ahmed Zayat, a whopping $200,000 per breeding, and could theoretically breed as many as 200 times in a season. That adds up to millions upon millions of dollars, far outweighing the slightly more than a million an owner stands to make for winning the Kentucky Derby.
It's also worth noting, as the report detailed, that the $200,000-per-breeding figure comes from the last time the price was publicly known, so its theoretically possible that price is even higher now.
In short, in financial terms, there's a lot on the line on Saturday evening. If you're curious to watch the race, you'll want to set aside some time tomorrow ― it's scheduled to begin at 6:46 p.m. ET. That said, if you've been waiting all year to see it, you might want to tune in a little bit early just to make sure you don't miss it ― after all, the race only lasts two minutes on average. It'll be broadcast on NBC, and can also be viewed streaming via the NBC Sports app.