What Does a Jockey Agent Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
Most jockeys in the U.S. are represented by agents whose main responsibility is to solicit horse trainers and owners for racing mounts on behalf of their clients. Jockey agents must be masters of communication and adept in several other areas to operate at the highest levels of horseracing.
Jockey Agent Duties & Responsibilities
Besides lining up mounts for their clients, jockey agents may need to perform the following work:
- Evaluate races to determine a jockey’s best opportunities.
- Negotiate the jockey’s fees and expenses.
- Comply with agent licensing requirements in states where clients compete.
- Maintain a complete log of all riding engagements that are booked for each jockey and make these records available to the racing stewards on request.
- Keep track of expenses and income.
- Handle administrative functions such as social media and travel arrangements.
- Manage sponsorships, interviews, and appearances.
- Schedule the jockey to compete in as many races as possible.
- Work with the jockey to identify racing circuits where they'll have the most success.
Few other jobs in sports likely encompass such an eclectic set of duties and responsibilities as that of jockey agent. In addition to acting as travel agent, social media specialist, publicist, confidant, secretary, bookkeeper, financial advisor, negotiator, manager, scheduler, and sometime scapegoat, successful jockey agents have to think strategically and be charismatic salespeople and precision handicappers, which means they must crunch available information to accurately pick winning horses.
Jockey Agent Salary
Jockey agents generally receive between 20% and 30% of their jockeys' earnings. For example, jockey agent Derek Lawson, who negotiated Flavien Prat's winning mount for the 2019 Kentucky Derby, made about $46,500 or 25% (before taxes) of Prat's $186,000 cut of the winnings.
Jockey agents may be involved with other equine-related pursuits to supplement their income. One option is to work as a bloodstock agent, brokering deals to sell horses or breeding services. These agents are also compensated on a commission basis.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide salary information specifically for jockey agents but instead groups business managers and agents of athletes, performers, and artists together. People in this group are mostly paid on a commission basis, and their annual compensation varies depending on their clients' earnings.
- Median Annual Salary: $66,040 ($31.75/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $187,600 ($90.19/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $33,440 ($16.08/hour)
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018
As independent contractors, jockey agents must pay estimated quarterly taxes as well as pay for health insurance, computer hardware and software, other office equipment and supplies, legal and professional services, travel and entertainment expenses, licensing fees, and more.
Education, Training, & Certification
Although there are no minimum educational requirements to become a jockey agent, most agents acquire significant experience in the horseracing industry before seeking to represent clients.
- Education: Jockey agents need at least a high school diploma or equivalent, although some jockey agents opt to complete college degrees in business or equine studies.
- Training: People in this field frequently have extensive experience with horses, including on-the-job training at the track working as horse trainers, assistant trainers, jockeys, exercise riders, or barn managers.
- Licensing: Jockey agents must be licensed in the states where they represent riders, and regulations governing agent representation vary from state to state. If a candidate hasn't held an agent license in any jurisdiction, they must provide proof of a previously held occupational license in a related area such as owner, trainer, jockey, or veterinarian, and pass a written or oral exam administered by the racing stewards. Licenses must be renewed each year by paying a fee, although some states allow agents to pay in advance for up to three years.
Jockey Agent Skills & Competencies
Working as a jockey's agent requires energy, stamina, intelligence, and the ability to juggle competing priorities. Other key skills and abilities include:
- Communication skills: They need good listening skills, clear and persuasive one-on-one speaking abilities, positive body language, public speaking skills, and the ability to write a press release.
- Sales and negotiating skills: Before they can sell a jockey to horse trainers, they must sell themselves by being confident, friendly, honest, dependable, and reasonable. They also have to know how to secure the horse they want and get the best deal for a jockey.
- Genuine love of the sport: When getting started as an agent, a passion for horses and horseracing keeps them motivated and moving forward when days are packed with hard work, expenses, and little else.
- Time-management skills: They may often find themselves racing the clock, so the ability to schedule time efficiently, prioritize a to-do list, meet all commitments, and maintain healthy eating and sleep habits is critical to success and well-being.
- Computer and software skills: They use several programs to track expenses and income, evaluate which horses will match up best with a jockey, schedule races and public appearances, and carry out administrative responsibilities such as posting on social media and making travel arrangements.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job growth rate for agents and business managers of artists, performers, and athletes is projected to be 5% between 2016 and 2026, which is about average. However, the number of jockeys in North America has been declining. According to the Equibase jockey database, there were 1,882 jockeys with at least one start in 2009. In June 2019, this had dropped to 1,120, a decrease of about 40% in 10 years.
Fewer jockeys mean fewer opportunities for jockey agents; plus jockeys don't always seek representation from an agent. Nevertheless, if you work hard and have a knack for the business, you may find operating as a jockey agent to be a rewarding career. Although it may take a while to grow a reputation and develop a relationship with a rider who's in high demand, prospects for success in this field are greater if you have relevant experience and are able to build strong connections with trainers.
If a jockey wants to be a contender, the jockey agent spends the bulk of their time at the barns talking with horse trainers and working deals on the phone. To get the best opportunities for the jockey, the jockey agent studies their condition book to become familiar with the schedule of races for each track during a particular time period. The jockey agent also spends time traveling between barns or to a race.
The classic 9-to-5 work schedule isn't in the cards for jockey agents, whose day begins between 5 and 7 a.m. when they head to the barns. The job often involves working long hours, weekends, and holidays.
How to Get the Job
GET A CERTIFICATE OR DEGREE
An associate degree or certificate in equestrian studies can boost your profile. For example, the equine studies program at the North American Racing Academy at Bluegrass Community & Technical College offers an associate degree in equine studies with either a jockey or horseman concentration. The school also offers certificates such as exercise rider and veterinary assistant. If you're currently in high school, take courses in chemistry, business, biology, math, and communications to prepare for the next phase of your education.
GET YOUR FOOT IN THE DOOR
Look for an entry-level ranch job, a volunteer opportunity with an equine sanctuary or rescue in your state, or a summer job with a horse breeder. Opportunities may also be available at barns that provide boarding services, the equestrian center at a local college or university, or a community parks and recreation division.
SEARCH JOB PORTALS
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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018