There are plenty of myths around how much jockeys’ earn and quite often the information banded around is entirely inaccurate.
With some kind assistance from Dale Gibson, the Professional Jockeys Association (PJA) Executive Director, I will hopefully dispel some of the misinformation that one often finds online when it comes to jockeys’ wages in the United Kingdom.
The PJA is essentially the jockeys’ union and the organisation that helps make sure they are dealt with fairly and correctly, in all aspects of their working lives and beyond.
Jockey Earnings: Guide
Negotiations with all the racing authorities and other trade bodies have helped improve the jockeys’ standing in this modern era of race riding. They provide help and guidance with any problems which may arise, all of which is private and confidential.
The PJA’s mission statement is to promote, protect and represent the interests of professional jockeys both on and off the racecourse.
Overall the jockeys find the PJA an invaluable ally to have on their side as being a freelancer, which most of them are, comes with plenty of pitfalls when it comes to managing your own finances.
How Much Do Jockeys Get Paid?
The table above is correct for the season 2020/21 and gives you a detailed breakdown of just what a jockey is left with at the end of the day when he/she has paid their dues and demands.
As you can see the basic fees of NH £173.59 and Flat £127.14 for a single ride, end up with the jockey coming away with the net earnings of £70.21 and £31.79 before tax.
If you thought a jockey earned megabucks to ride some of your favourite horses to follow, then think again! Unless you are a Ryan Moore or Frankie Dettori, chances are you won't be a top paid jockey.
Travel expenses are set using the AA (Automobile Association) figure of 30p per mile on a 200 mile round trip. Group Insurance covers indemnity, legal costs (appeals etc) and riding abroad.
A jockeys’ licence is set at £250 per year. *CEI = Career Ending Insurance.
Apprentice Jockey Wages
After long winded and protracted lobbying (5 years) the PJA negotiated that from July 2020 they receive a larger share of prize money and riding fee in exchange for Apprentices paying all race day expenses. Those expenses being:
- Valet (essential as an important back up as a friend/ mentor but also from the actual work they do too).
- Agent (again vital)
- Jockey Coach (vital but pay 10% of fee Flat and 7.5% NH for them)
- PJA subs
- Weatherby’s line charge
Dale ,who was one of the best male jockeys around in his time, told me he could write a book on what it took to improve Apprentices/Conditional finances. There was plenty of toil and sweat that went into negotiating a better deal for them.
Surprisingly, apprentices don’t get the full 100% of the fee nor the jockey prize money percentages, yet Conditional Jockeys (NH Apprentices do), something that doesn’t feel equal to Gibson:
“Personally I feel that every Jockey should earn the same fee/percentage of prize money. They have the same expense, risk, make the same sacrifices and ride around the same track!”
Gibson also went on to tell me: “Some Jockeys get paid quite well for riding work, some get paid a nominal amount and some alarmingly don’t get paid and are not certain to ride the horse in a race in future!
"It’s not an exact science, the same as anything. It’s definitely the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the sport”.
Jockeys Benefit From Improved Non Runner Fee
This fee came into force in January 2020, again after lengthy negotiation with ROA (Racehorse Owners Association) in lieu of an annual pay rise.
Last year there were 7135 declared non runners for a wide variety of reasons? Jockeys now receive a text service (paid for by PJA via Weatherby’s) when they are informed of a declared non-runner.
Once final Jockey bookings are made at 1pm (48 hours before race) if a horse is declared a non-runner, the jockey receives 50% of fee - making it £63.57 for the Flat and £86.80 for NH.
If you book the plumber and then cancel there is a call out fee. The PJA used this analogy to make things fairer for jockeys in this respect.
Gibson and the PJA were absolutely right to push for this 50% fee insurance as all too often a jockey would drive to the races, sometimes hundreds of miles away, only to arrive and find out that the horse wasn’t running because of x,y or z.
The text message therefore can assist in re-organising travel and personal plans on the day.
Around half of full time Professional Jockeys have a sponsor.
The PJA don’t see those amounts as they are a private matter, but many are for less than 5k annually. Obviously the Top 10 Pro’s can command significantly more.
Jockeys can be sponsored by bookmakers that offer horse racing betting but the commercial agreements are monitored very closely by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) to avoid any integrity issues arising.
Most Apprentices don’t get sponsored until either they ride their claim out (95 winners or get close to it). It is a similar scenario for the Conditionals.
Jockeys Percentage Of Prize Money
There is still a folk tale doing the rounds that Jockeys get 10% of the winning prize money.
This hasn’t happened since mid-1970s when bizarrely flat Jockeys gave away 25% of their bonus which helped form stable pool money. In 1984 the PJA pension scheme was formed and 0.6% of Jockeys prize money goes into this annually.
A per-ride-payment is set accordingly to the number of rides and then distributed to pension fund. It has been a successful scheme to Jockeys, especially for those who ride for a reasonable period of time.
The tables below show the percentage of total prize money Jockeys receive based on races with a total value of £10,000.
It’s not an exact science and Pattern races have a slightly different percentage, but it’s the starting point for working out winning percentages.
Note that Flat Jockeys earn a smaller percentage per win than NH. Owners win more of a percentage in Flat races than they do in NH.
If both figures were the same Flat Jockeys would earn same win bonus as NH, but again there is an historical anomaly.
^ These figures can offer a closer insight into jockey earnings for flat racing and National Hunt racing.
Jockey Salary: Conclusion
I’m very grateful to Dale Gibson, 23 years a Professional Jockey himself, for this overview and insight into Jockeys’ salaries in the United Kingdom.
As Gibson himself admits, the top 10 jockeys earn good money, the next 20-30 jockeys make a decent living but those in the mid to lower tier need a sponsor and literally work all year around for not a lot of money.
*Credit for the main photo belongs to Seth Wenig / AP Photo*
FIRST PUBLISHED: 2nd November 2020