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Published: May 04, 2019 4 min read
The 144th Kentucky Derby
Justify with Mike Smith wins the 2018 Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs Racetrack on May 5, 2018.
Horsephotos—Getty Images

The 2019 Kentucky Derby takes place today (Saturday, May 4), and the 145th running of the "most exciting two minutes in sports" will be extra lucrative for the winner.

This year, an additional $1 million has been added to the Kentucky Derby prize money — otherwise known as the purse. For more than a decade, the purse was $2 million, and the total prize money at stake for the 2019 Kentucky Derby has been raised to a whopping $3 million.

The Kentucky Derby winner does not get all of the prize money; instead, it's distributed among the top five finishers. But as you'd imagine, just as the purse increased to a record high this year, so has the prize money that's given to the winner: The winning team in the 2019 Kentucky Derby will be awarded $1.86 million, up from roughly $1.24 million in 2018.

To watch the Kentucky Derby 2019 and see who wins the money and all the glory, tune in your local NBC station today. Coverage of the Kentucky Derby begins on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 4, and the race itself is scheduled to start at about 6:50 p.m. ET.

Here's more information about Kentucky Derby prize money, including how the purse breaks down and how it's grown over the years — along with how much jockeys make for bringing home the golden trophy.

How Much Does the Kentucky Derby Winner Get?

The purse for the Kentucky Derby has increased dramatically over the decades. As of 1954, the purse was $100,000, and the total Kentucky Derby prize money rose to $1 million in 1995. It stood at $2 million from 2005 to 2018, before increasing to $3 million this year.

Here's how the 2019 Kentucky Derby prize money breaks down:

• $1.86 million for the Kentucky Derby winner
• $600,000 for the Kentucky Derby runner-up
• $300,000 for third place
• $150,000 for fourth place
• $90,000 for fifth place

The winnings go to the horse's owners, who then generally distribute some of the prize money to the winning jockey and perhaps some other members of the team.

How Much Does the Winning Jockey at the Kentucky Derby Make?

Jockeys traditionally get 10% of the prize money in races where their horses win or place. So, with $1.86 million going to the top finisher at the 2019 Kentucky Derby, the jockey riding the winning horse to victory would earn about $186,000.

Out of that amount, a winning jockey generally passes along about 30% to his agent and valet. Income tax must be paid on all of these earnings as well.

A select few jockeys manage to earn very good livings, perhaps even over $1 million annually for those who ride world-class horses and perform well at the racetrack regularly.

However, jockeys can often make a pittance while putting their lives at risk racing on the backs of 1,000-pound thoroughbred horses. Not only are injuries common for jockeys, they also must do whatever is necessary to keep their own weight down, typically at around 100 pounds, so that their horses can be as fast as possible.

A jockey riding in the Kentucky Derby on a horse that doesn't place might earn few hundred dollars or less. Meanwhile, at smaller races a jockey could make $50 or less if they're riding a horse that doesn't place, and most jockeys in the U.S. reportedly earn less than $12,000 a year.