Notwithstanding the handful of elite jockeys who are paid a ‘retainer’ to ride for individual owners or trainers, the majority of jockeys are self-employed. Retainers are rarely, if ever, in the public domain; the most successful jockey in the history of National Hunt racing, A.P. McCoy, for example, reputedly received up to £1 million a year from Irish billionaire J.P. McManus, but the exact amount was never revealed.
Self-employed jockeys are paid riding fees on a ride-by-ride basis, at a fixed rate of £120.66, or £164.74, per ride, depending on whether they compete under Flat or National Hunt rules. Jockeys also receive a percentage of any prize-money their mounts earn – 3.5% of placed prize-money and 7-9% of winning prize-money – plus income from any approved sponsorship agreements. On the other hand, jockeys must also pay a host of deductions, to their agent, to their valet and to the Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA), among others. Collectively, these deductions amount to roughly 25% of riding fees and 10% of prize-money.
In summary, at the top end of the profession, jockeys can earn hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of pounds a year. However, beyond the top echelon, annual earnings are likely to be much more modest; the average jockey can expect to earn in the region of £30,000 per annum, after tax and expenses, while an apprentice or conditional jockey could easily earn less than half that amount.