Horse racing is often referred to as “the sport of kings,” and the people who train the most successful horses are often royally rewarded.
Admittedly, the profession isn’t lucrative for everyone. The average horse trainer makes roughly $37,000 per year, according to Salary.com. But, if a trainer saddles a Triple Crown winner, that number can soar to $200,000 or more, per HorseAnswer.com.
With the Kentucky Derby coming up May 7, GOBankingRates looked at all of the Kentucky Derby-winning trainers since 1930 to determine who has trained the horses that have cashed in the most. We converted the monetary figures into 2022 numbers for comparison.
15. Nick Zito
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $4,837,892 ($10,021,267 in 2022 dollars)
Derby-winning horses: Strike the Gold (1991), Go for Gin (1994)
In addition to his two Derby wins, Zito won the 1996 Preakness Stakes and the 2004 and 2008 Belmont Stakes.
14. H. Graham Motion
Career earnings of Derby-winning horse: $8,387,500 ($10,671,788)
Derby-winning horse: Animal Kingdom (2011)
Motion’s biggest win was the 2011 Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom, but he also trained 2004 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Better Talk Now.
13. Grover “Bud” Delp
Career earnings of Derby-winning horse: $2,781,608 ($11,184,943)
Derby-winning horse: Spectacular Bid (1979)
Delp, who posted an impressive 20.5% winning percentage in his career, is best known for training Spectacular Bid, who won the Derby and the Preakness Stakes in 1979.
12. Cam Gambolati
Career earnings of Derby-winning horse: $4,220,689 ($11,309,086)
Derby-winning horse: Spend A Buck (1985)
Gambolati’s career peaked with his Derby winner, Spend A Buck. He’s also well known for his association with longtime basketball coach and horse owner Rick Pitino.
11. John Servis
Career earnings of Derby-winning horse: $7,613,155 ($11,574,894)
Derby-winning horse: Smarty Jones (2004)
Servis was a relatively unknown trainer until Smarty Jones became the first unbeaten Derby winner since 1977. Smarty Jones went on to win the Preakness Stakes.
10. Jack Price
Career earnings of Derby-winning horse: $1,241,165 ($11,974,493)
Derby-winning horse: Carry Back (1961)
Price was known for his unconventional methods, racing Carry Back 21 times as a 2-year-old. But it paid off when Carry Back won the Derby and Preakness Stakes in 1961.
9. Lazaro Barrera
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $2,940,354 ($13,451,352)
Derby-winning horses: Bold Forbes (1976), Affirmed (1978)
The Cuban-born Barrera won the Triple Crown in 1978 with Affirmed.
8. Max Hirsch
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $981,495 ($14,814,473)
Derby-winning horses: Bold Venture (1936), Assault (1946), Middleground (1950)
Hirsch won the Triple Crown in 1946 with Assault, among his nine victories in Triple Crown races. He also holds the distinction of having the lowest career earnings of Derby winners on this list (but not in modern-day numbers).
7. D. Wayne Lukas
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $7,704,497 ($15,016,168)
Derby-winning horses: Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996), Charismatic (1999)
Lukas has won 14 Triple Crown races in his stellar career.
6. Lucien Laurin
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $2,428,305 ($16,305,589)
Derby-winning horses: Riva Ridge (1972), Secretariat (1973)
Many forget Laurin won the Kentucky Derby in 1972 with Riva Ridge, because the next year he trained Secretariat, considered the greatest racehorse of all time.
5. Charles “Jack” Van Berg
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $6,679,242 ($16,978,858)
Derby-winning horses: Alysheba (1987)
Van Berg trained Alysheba, who won the Derby, Preakness Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic in 1987.
4. Art Sherman
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $14,752,650 ($17,916,354)
Derby-winning horse: California Chrome (2014)
Sherman was 77 when he won the Kentucky Derby in 2014, becoming the oldest trainer to win the Run for the Roses. He also led California Chrome to the Preakness Stakes victory.
3. Charles Edward Whittingham
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $8,746,532 ($21,512,743)
Derby-winning horses: Ferdinand (1986), Sunday Silence (1989)
Whittingham became the oldest trainer to win the Kentucky Derby when he trained Ferdinand to the victory in 1986. Whittingham then won two years later with Sunday Silence. Both horses went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
2. Ben A. Jones
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $2,817,811 ($39,788,802)
Derby-winning horses: Lawrin (1938), Whirlaway (1941), Pensive (1944), Citation (1948), Ponder (1949), Hill Gail (1952)
Jones won a record-tying six Kentucky Derbies, and took the Triple Crown in 1941. Citation also won a Triple Crown but was trained by his son, Jimmy Jones, for the Preakness and Belmont.
1. Bob Baffert
Career earnings of Derby-winning horses: $33,356,671 ($46,704,004)
Derby-winning horses: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), American Pharoah (2015), Justify (2018), Authentic (2020)
Baffert is considered one of the greatest trainers of all time, winning Triple Crowns in 2015 and 2018, but his recent history has been somewhat tarnished by a suspension for drug use in his horses. Baffert-trained Medina Spirit won the 2021 Kentucky Derby, but the win was overturned because of a positive drug test.
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