The Kentucky Derby is considered the premium jewel in the Triple Crown of horse racing, the highest-profile race of the year.
In addition to the fame of being called “Kentucky Derby champion” and winning a garland of roses, the owner of the first-place winner takes home a hefty payday. See how much the winner(s) of the Kentucky Derby get.
Winning Owner Takes More Than Half the $3 Million Purse
The purse for the 2023 Kentucky Derby is $3 million, with $1.86 million of that going to the winning horse’s owner (and 10%, or $186,000, to the winning jockey).
The remaining purse is shared among the second- through fifth-place finishers. The second-place horse earns $600,000, followed by $300,000 for third, $150,000 for fourth and $90,000 for fifth.
That purse has gone up substantially since the race began. The first Kentucky Derby in 1875 paid out $2,850 to the winner and $200 to the runner-up for a total purse of $3,050, TwinSpires.com reported. That number grew exponentially and passed $1 million by 1996. From 2005 to 2018, the purse totaled over $2 million (paying the winner $1.24 million).
The total purse jumped from $2 million to $3 million in 2019, the first increase in 14 years, EssentiallySports.com reported. That bump came thanks to an increase in returns from electronic betting machines at Derby City Racing.
The Kentucky Derby has the highest payout of the three Triple Crown races. Both the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes offer $1.5 million.
What About the Individual Bettor?
ESPN reported that last year’s Kentucky Derby took in the highest betting handle in the history of the Triple Crown race — attendees bet a total of $179 million in the pari-mutuel pool during Saturday’s race.
That’s a 17% increase over the $155.4 million in 2021, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported. That doesn’t include online sportsbooks or other legal sports betting. BoydsBets.com estimates that Las Vegas sportsbooks bring in an addition $11 million to $16.6 million for each Derby.
The Derby offers plenty of options for you to bet, from a straight win-place-show bet to more exotic wagers, such as an exacta, trifecta or superfecta (picking the top two, three or four finishers). Some bettors have used those exotics to take home some significant cash.
Last year, a bettor won $74,000 on a $5 trifecta after an underdog named Rich Strike placed first, leading to the second largest upset in the race’s history.
In 2019, a Las Vegas bettor reportedly won $102,000 on $8 in superfecta bets. He got lucky when Country House, a 65/1 longshot, won the Derby after apparent winner Maximum Security was disqualified.
In 2018, a Texas woman won about 10 times that amount. She bet $18 on a Pick 5 and nailed the winner of the Derby, Justify, and the top horses in the four races leading up the Derby. She walked away with $1.2 million.
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