So, how much does a jockey really earn?

YORK, ENGLAND - MAY 16: A general view as jockeys leave the weighing room at York Racecourse on May 16, 2018 in York, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Flat jockeys in Britain earn £127.90 per ride – but how much of that reaches their pocket?Credit: Alan Crowhurst (Getty Images)

Jockeys must be loaded, right? Throughout the summer Frankie Dettori is riding in races worth hundreds of thousands of pounds every week. Ryan Moore jets around the world contesting the globe's biggest contests. Rachael Blackmore wins Grade 1s for fun.

And yes, at the very highest level there is an excellent living to be made for a select few, but even then it is not extraordinary in the greater sporting landscape. To put it in context, in 2021 just two Flat jockeys made as much income from riding fees and prize-money in Britain as the 175th highest-earning golfer on the PGA Tour (Peter Uihlein earned $399,417/£297,359.97) – and the seven highest-earning jockeys on the Flat all out-earned the highest earner over jumps.

But it's a different story for most riders. So what does the average jockey earn? The short answer is this: not a huge amount. As for the long answer? Well, that's where it gets complicated . . .

Let's break it down

Unlike most athletes jockeys are almost all self-employed (although a few top riders have contracts to ride for individual trainers or owners) – which means that rather than being paid a fixed salary, they charge for each job they take.

The bread and butter of jockeys' earnings are riding fees and these are set at £174.63 per ride over jumps and £127.90 on the Flat and that fee applies to whoever you book. While the likes of Lionel Messi, Lebron James, Beauden Barrett and Virat Kohli can leverage their immense talent into a higher salary than their contemporaries, every jockey on the Flat costs the same to use as Frankie Dettori or Ryan Moore. The best jockeys make more money by riding more rather than charging more.

It all means any rider with a full book of rides can expect to earn roughly £700 per day on the Flat and £1,000 over jumps – before their share of any prize-money is factored in. Obviously jockeys coming for fewer rides would be looking at less, but with all the same expenses and deductions those with just one ride really don't earn much.

The deductions

From their riding fee a host of deductions must be made. Ten per cent goes to the jockey's agent and three per cent to the Professional Jockeys Association (the riders' union).

Their valet, who handles equipment, gets ten per cent of the first riding fee each day, then 7.5 per cent of the second and five per cent of the third.

Further deductions are made for insurance, on-course physiotherapists and the racing bank Weatherbys, which handles the riding fees – and even imposes a 50p levy for every line of a jockey's statement (imagine if your bank tried doing the same!).

Valets, who work hard behind the scenes, are paid on a sliding scale
Valets, who work hard behind the scenes in the weighing room, are paid on a sliding scaleCredit: Patrick McCann (

In other words, a jockey has already said goodbye to around a quarter of their riding fee immediately and this is before factoring in the cost of getting to the races in terms of mileage to and from the various – and largely remote – parts of Britain that have racecourses, not to mention all the mornings riding out in order to build up the contacts to earn rides (more on that later).

The average jump jockey takes 157 rides a year. If they receive three-quarters of each riding fee, that puts the average gross annual income from riding fees at £20,500.

The average Flat jockey, meanwhile, has 290 rides a year. That puts their gross annual income at £27,800.

Prize-money and sponsorship

Riders also get performance-related pay in the shape of a percentage of any prize-money their mounts earn.

This ranges from 8.5 to nine per cent of winning prize-money over jumps, depending on the race. It is 6.9 per cent on the Flat. Under both codes they take home 3.5 per cent of placed prize-money. The only deduction is a ten per cent cut to their agent.

Prize-money is higher on the Flat than over jumps, but under both codes earnings from prize-money are wildly variable, especially for riders outside the handful of stars who make up the sport's top echelon.

During the 2019-20 season, for example, Sam Twiston-Davies rode horses who earned £1,625,900 in prize-money (he rode 99 winners from 589 rides and would have won the title if it was decided the same way as the trainers' championship). That number dropped to £884,953 the following season (83 winners from 637 rides) before rising to £1,767,339 in 2021-22 (105 winners from 731 rides).

Sam Twiston-Davies interview picturesCheltenham 1.1.20 Pic: Edward Whitaker
Sam Twiston-Davies: rider's mounts won £1,767,339 in 2021-22 (105 winners from 731 rides)Credit: Edward Whitaker

Gavin Sheehan's mounts collected £906,098 in 2019-20 (355 rides) and £426,128 the following year from 369 rides (£656,587 in 2021-22; 396 rides). Tom Scudamore's rose from £524,048 in 2019-20 (413 rides) to £875,464 the next season (430 rides). In 2021-22, Scudamore's mounts won £846,090 but he took more rides (507).

Riders can also earn money via sponsorship. For example, Ryan Moore is sponsored by Al Basti Equiworld, a horse feed company from Dubai, while Bryony Frost is an ambassador for Betfair and six-time all-weather champion jockey Luke Morris this year announced he was seeking a sponsor for 2022.

Naturally, what each rider is paid is dependent on their public profile, sporting success and agent's negotiating chops.

The career-ending insurance that used to be covered by sponsorship across riders posteriors is now covered by owners who pay a £3.91 surcharge to the riding fee.

Expenses and tax

A jockeys' major expenditure is travel, with a typical rider covering 40,000 to 60,000 miles a year, a cost of upwards of £6,000 in fuel with petrol prices rising (the inflation of fuel prices is at 33 per cent at the time of writing with general inflation at circa ten per cent). Riding out for trainers in the morning will increase that further, while vehicle maintenance can become another big cost.

There's also tax to consider, which means paying accountants or long hours poring over tax returns. On the upside, fuel, equipment and vehicle costs can all be discounted against tax owed, meaning many jockeys will avoid giving the taxman too much of their hard-earned cash.

So, what do they actually earn?

Let's take four example jockeys, whose real identities and precise statistics we will mask just in case the aforementioned taxman is taking an unhealthy interest in this article. The totals below don't include sponsorship or retainers, which are not in the public domain, or compensation paid for non-runners (riders get 40 per cent of the riding fee if horses are withdrawn after 9am). It also doesn't include any earnings achieved outside of Britain.

Jockey A is a top ten Flat rider with a prominent job in Newmarket. He rode almost 1,000 horses in 2021, earning almost £93,000 before expenses and tax. His share of over £1.6 million in prize-money was almost £84,000.

Bottom line: £176,700 before tax and expenses

Jockey B is a top 20 jump jockey riding roughly 370 mounts in 2020-21. He banked over £48,000 in riding fees and around £25,000 in prize-money.

Bottom line: £73,500 before tax and expenses

Jockey C is a well-known journeyman jump jockey whose fortunes have waxed and waned over the years. He rode under 240 horses last season, translating to almost £31,000 in riding fees supplemented by over £14,000 in prize-money.

Bottom line: £45,200 before tax and expenses

Jockey D is an experienced freelance Flat jockey whose biggest win to date is a Listed success. Last year he had just over 200 rides in Britain, generating over £20,000 in riding fees and £9,500 in prize-money.

Bottom line: £29,900 before tax and expenses


At the top end, riders can earn hundreds of thousands of pounds per year. In fact, when retainers for top owners and foreign prize-money are included it is not inconceivable the very elite will nudge their earnings into seven figures.

Outside those few earnings rapidly drop off, with the average jockey earning around £30,000 after tax and expenses are factored in. For a job as relentless all year round, with very few breaks, high risk of injury and a huge number of hours in the car traipsing all over the country – that is far from a fortune.

Finally, an apprentice or conditional jockey, who are subject to a whole set of special rules that would take another article to explain, is likely to earn less than £15,000. Apprentices (Flat) get 80 per cent of their fee at 7lb, 5lb and 3lb, and 80 per cent of prize money at 7lb and 5lb, rising to 90 per cent at 3lb. Conditionals (jumps) get 100 per cent of fees and prize-money throughout their claim.

Premier League footballers such as Mohamed Salah are among the top earners in sport
Premier League footballers such as Mohamed Salah are among the top earners in sportCredit: Andrew Powell

Putting a precise figure on what jockeys earn is difficult, but what can be said with certainty is that in sporting terms, for all but a select few it is nowhere near the level of reimbursement that footballers, cricketers, golfers or tennis players enjoy.

Don't get us wrong, most riders aren't struggling – but neither are they rich.

And when you consider the long hours, gruelling travel and physical danger they endure, we think it's fair to say every pound and euro is money very well earned.

Read these next:

Crunching the numbers: so you think you want to become a bookie?

Three 500-calorie meals and a 200-calorie snack, but what does a jockey eat?

The prizefighters: which racehorses have earned the most money?

Racing's most expensive flops, including a $10m buy who was 'no bloody good'

Sign up to receive On The Nose, our essential daily newsletter, from the Racing Post. Your unmissable morning feed, direct to your email inbox every morning.

author image
Stuart RileyDeputy news editor

Published on 5 February 2020inSeries

Last updated 12:58, 3 October 2022