It might not ordinarily be thought of as being a ‘rich’ sport in the same way as football or golf, but racing jockeys still have the ability to earn a pretty penny if they play their cards right. As well as those that are on retainers with certain training yards, there’s plenty of prize money to be won at the top end of the industry.
Here we’ll look at the jockeys that have earned the most during their careers before discussing the topic in general. Few of them will have been able to retire with the same sort of riches as a Premier League footballer, but they’ll have ended their careers with more money in their bank accounts than most people get to claim in a lifetime.
The Rich List
|Jockey||Years Operating||Money Earned|
|Sir Gordon Richards||1921 – 1954||Around £274,000 per year|
|Lester Piggott||1948 – 1985 then 1990 – 1995||Around £20 million|
|Fred Archer||1869 – 1886||£50 million net worth|
|Ryan Moore||2000 – Present Day||Has won more than £125 million for owners|
|Frankie Dettori||1986 – Present Day||Has won more than £147.4 million for owners|
|Bill Shoemaker||1949 – 1990||Won more than £195 million for owners|
|Christophe Lemaire||1999 – Present Day||Has won £209 million plus for owners|
|Javier Castellano||1996 – Present Day||Has won more than $330 million for owners|
|John Velazquez||1990 – Present Day||Has won more than £334 million for owners|
|Yutaka Take||1987 – Present Day||Has won more than £649 million|
|Gaius Appuleius Diocles||Ancient Rome||Won around £15 billion|
Above we a look at the top 10 richest jockeys. The money earned by jockeys has been adjusted for inflation where possible.
Looking At The Details
As you can no doubt tell from the above table, it’s tricky to look with any sense of confidence at jockeys from different times and different countries and say how much they earned. The last name on the list, that of Gaius Appuleius Diocles, might be put down slightly tongue-in-cheek, but there’s no question that historians consider him to be one of the best-paid sportspeople of all time.
He was the best chariot rider in Rome during the second century when he won a little of a third of his chariot races. He enjoyed four-horse chariot events the most, leading to scholars to estimate that he won prize money that would stand around the £15 billion mark if converted to modern day money. How much of that he’d actually have received himself is unknown.
Different Countries Offer Different Rewards
Another reason it’s tricky to look at the above table and judge the meaning of the earnings of the various jockeys is that they can earn different levels of money depending on where they have plied their tried. There’s no question that Japanese races offer more in prize money than anywhere else, as evidenced by the ¥1,876,843,000, or £14.5 million, earned by Yutaka Take in a 20-race career.
The United States of America is also a lucrative area for jockeys to head to. Races like the Kentucky Derby are enjoyed with such ferocity by racing fans in the country that the race itself is just a small part of what is celebrated each time it rolls around. Areas such as Dubai are becoming more and more wealthy and interested in racing, so they will soon catch up with Japan and America on the horse racing rich list.
It’s About More Than Just Prize Money
Of course, one of the other reasons why the best jockeys are able to take home such a decent amount of money is that what they can earn is about more than just their share of any prize money that they’ve won. The top owners and trainers are keen to work with the top jockeys, so they’ll often offer them retainers to ensure that they have first refusal of their services for when the big races come around.
That means that the best jockeys in the business have a guaranteed income before they even need to pull on their riding boots and pick up their whips. Everything else that they earn is then profit on top of that. There’s also the likes of future star races that see stallions being made, from which jockeys can earn a percentage if they’ve got a good agent that negotiates well for them. It’s all part of the way that jockeys line their purses.
When They Earned The Money Matters Too
The final thing worth drawing your attention to is the fact that when a jockey earned their money makes a difference to how their wealth should be perceived. Sir Gordon Richards was winning races at a time when £1,000 was considered to be a very nice wage, for example, so the fact that he almost certainly earned in excess of £10,000 per year shows you just how much that was worth. Indeed, if you use modern day inflation calculations then that works out as being more than £270,000 per year today.
Back in the day that was a huge amount of money. Whilst it’s hardly a wage that the average person would turn down nowadays, it is worth remembering that the top Premier League footballers will be paid more than that on a weekly basis. The very best modern day jockeys will earn millions of pounds during their careers, making the £800,000 plus that was in Richards’ bank on his death seem like small potatoes in comparison. Again, it’s a churlish thing to argue when ‘normal’ people earn so little money.
That being said, in a conversation about the wealth of jockeys it has to be pointed out that Richards’ money will have gone further and made him rich in a societal sense that only the very best in the industry could hope to lay claim to today. Perhaps the likes of Frankie Dettori and Yutaka Take would have liked to have been jockeys in the days of Sir Gordon Richards, in spite of the personal wealth that they’ve earned in the modern era of the sport.