The Derby Winner Makes More Than Super Bowl Champs, but May Still Be Seen as Underpaid

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The players on the winning team of the Super Bowl get $118,000 each. The winning players of the World Series make over $400,000. The horse that wins the Kentucky Derby makes its owner much more than the champions of either of those sports.

This year will be the 145th running of the Kentucky Derby. That makes it the oldest continuously held sporting event in America, and this is every winner since 1990.

The first horse that crosses the finish line this year will win about $1.24 million, part of the $2 million divided among the top five horses, for running a two-minute race. The winning jockey wins about 10% of what the horse gets, which puts his or her payout at $125,000. That’s all for a race that lasts two minutes, what horse-racing fans call the “most exciting two minutes in sports.”

Only two horses have won in less than two minutes. One horse was one of the greatest racehorses in history, Secretariat, who won the Triple Crown in 1973, ran the race in 1:59.40. That puts Secretariat at the top of the 50 best times ever posted by a winner.

Among the reasons why so much money is involved in the Kentucky Derby is the amount that changes hands when the race is run.

Thousands of people come to Churchill Downs for the race. The tickets cost between $80 and $2,200, which means the owners of the iconic track have one of the richest “gates” for a single day in American sports. NBC, which televises the race, gets the advertising for reaching 16 million viewers. More than $200 million will be bet on the race. That’s up from $140 million in 2003. For most years on record, the numbers have risen.

Based on these numbers, the Derby winner might be viewed as underpaid. Regardless of the financial compensation, some of the colts will always be remembered as the most iconic horses to ever race in the Kentucky Derby.


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