Notwithstanding lucrative contracts, or ‘retainers’, to ride for leading owners, such as Sheikh Mohammed or J.P. McManus, which can bolster earnings to hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds a year, the vast majority of jockeys are self-employed. As such, they are not paid a fixed salary but, rather, on a ride-by-ride basis, with income stemming from riding fees, prize money and, if applicable, sponsorship.
Riding fees are negotiated annually by the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA) and the Rachorse Owners’ Association (ROA) and, as of April 1, 2022, stood at £142.90 and £194.63, respectively, for Flat and National Hunt jockeys. If a proposed mount is declared a non-runner after a jockey has been declared, that jockey receives 50% of the riding fee. Prize money is more complicated, but, according to the PJA, Flat jockeys typically receive 8.50% and 2.61%, respectively, of advertised win and place prize money, while National Hunt jockeys receive 11.03% and 3.44%, respectively.
Of course, jockeys’ earnings are subject to tax and a whole raft of deductions, including PJA, Weatherbys, agent and valet fees. Take-home pay varies widely but, on the whole, jockeys earn much less than other professional sportspeople, such as footballers, golfers and tennis players. An average jockey, under either code, can expect to earn in the region of £30,000 a year after tax and deductions, but an apprentice or conditional jockey could certainly earn less than half that amount.