Jockeys have one of the most hazardous occupations among all professional sports.  For the risks they take, the winning jockey in a race receives 10% of what the horse owner gets, and the second and third place jockeys receive 5% each.

According to Forbes magazine (June 29, 2016), the five leading jockeys based in the United States were compensated for race riding in 2015 as follows:

Javier Castellano, $2.25 million from 1,507 starts

Irad Ortiz Jr., $1.88 million from 1,415 starts

Victor Espinoza, $1.68 million from 495 starts

John Velazquez, $1.63 million from 1,001 starts

Joel Rosario, $1.38 million from 1,083 starts

Espinoza’s compensation came from far fewer rides than the other jockeys, but he won the American Triple Crown and the world’s most lucrative race, the Dubai World Cup with a $10 million purse.

Compared to the three major team sports in the USA, leading jockeys earn a pittance, especially considering the risks they incur and the fact that they are independent contractors who must pay for their own health insurance.  In addition, when a jockey is injured, his or her income ceases, whereas injured professional athletes in a league continue to draw their salaries.

The minimum salary is $450,000 for a rookie in the National Football League; $543,471 for a rookie in the NBA; and $507,500 in Major League Baseball.  The average compensation for a jockey pales in comparison to even the lowest paid players in the NFL, NBA, and MLB.

The average salary in two of the three leagues is more than the compensation earned by the top-earning jockey, Castellano’s $2.25 million.  The average salaries are:  NFL, $2.11 million; $NBA, $2.5 million; and MLB, $4.4 million. 

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