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Being a Jockey FAQs

How many jockeys are there in the United States?

There are approximately 1500 licensed jockeys in the United States. However, the number of jockeys who ride regularly (at least a few times per week) is approximately 1200.

Do jockeys really have to diet and watch their weight?

A jockey's eating habits and diet greatly depends on his or her actual size and weight. A large percentage of jockeys who ride in the United States must be very disciplined and dedicated with regard to maintaining their weight and strength.

How do jockeys stay in shape?

Riding Thoroughbreds every day is very strenuous exercise, and jockeys can become very fit and trim simply from riding. However, jockeys should engage in some strength, stamina and flexibility training to maximize their capabilities.

How much money do jockeys make?

Jockeys are paid on a per mount (race) basis. The fees are between $30 per mount and $100 per mount depending on the purse structure at each particular track. Those are the fees jockeys receive if they do not finish first, second or third. The jockey of the winning horse receives an amount equal to 10% of the winning owner' s share of the total purse. (The winning owner in most states receives 60% of the total purse.) The second place jockey receives 5% of the owner' s share of the second place purse money. (The second place owner receives 20% of the total purse in most states.) The third place jockey receives 5% of the owner' s share of the third place purse money. (The third place owner receives 15% of the total purse in most states.) The most successful jockeys can earn over a million dollars a year. The least successful will make less the $20,000 per year.

These are the earnings of the horses, not the jockey. As a rule of thumb, a jockey' s real earnings are approximately 7% of the horses' earnings.

How do jockeys receive their riding fees?

Each jockey receives a check at the end of a one- or two-week pay period, depending on the track' s policy, from the Horsemen' s Bookkeeper, who is employed by the racing office at the track.

How often do jockeys ride?

The most sought after jockeys will ride as many as eight or nine races per day, five or six days per week. The record for number of mounts in a single year is more than 2,300.

Do jockeys have agents who represent them?

Yes, the vast majority of jockeys have an agent who solicits the jockey' s business with the trainers and owners of the horses. It is not required to be represented by an agent; however, most jockeys do have an agent.

Can a jockey have more than one agent?

No. The one exception is when a jockey travels out of town to ride at different tracks for a day or two. The jockey may temporarily hire a local agent who is more familiar with the horses, trainers and owners who compete at that particular track.

Can an agent represent more than one jockey?

Some jurisdictions allow an agent to represent up to three jockeys, while others allow two and some allow only one jockey per agent.

How much do jockeys pay their agents?

 Agents receive between 20 and 30%  of the jockey' s earnings.

How often do jockeys relocate?

Depending upon the region in which a jockey is competing, jockeys can be very nomadic or they may settle in an area that has year-round racing such as southern Florida, southern California, Kentucky or New York. There are many jockeys who ride in New York in the summer and fall, then travel to south Florida to ride in the winter and spring. It greatly depends on the level of success each jockey achieves.