The multi-million-dollar mattress bet riding on Essential Quality in the Kentucky Derby

Horse Racing Essential Quality
Essential Quality: Kentucky Derby favourite will have at least $2m wagered on him by ‘Mattress Mack’. Photo: Coady

By Jon Lees

USA: A well-known US racehorse owner and philanthropist is pledging to place the biggest bet in Kentucky Derby history on the big-race favourite, Godolphin’s Essential Quality.

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Jim McIngvale, a Houston-based furniture magnate popularly known as ‘Mattress Mack’, has announced plans to stake between $2 million and $4 million on the unbeaten colt at Churchill Downs.

It will be the latest sporting bet the 70-year-old has placed to hedge against losses on a mattress promotion at his Gallery Furniture stores.

His ‘Kentucky Derby Fave Wins, You Win’ offer promises customers their money back on a mattress set purchase of $3,000 or more if the favourite wins the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. The success of the promotion will determine how much he wagers.

“I haven’t decided how much I’m going to bet,” McIngvale told the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (KYHBPA). “But it will be at least $2m. I have to figure whether to bet it all at once, or bet $500,000 three or four different times.

“How to structure it, whether I want to bet any exactas or just win bets or any place and show bets. I’ve got a lot of people advising me.”

Favourites have won six of the last seven runnings of the Kentucky Derby and McIngvale added: “I’m just worried about Essential Quality. I hope he wins. He’s deserving.”

On the track McIngvale is best known as the owner of the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Runhappy, who is now at stud. Off the track he has been applauded for opening his two Gallery Furniture stores to shelter victims of Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and as an advocate of fostering. He is planning to bring 300 foster parents and children as his guests at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

McIngvale, who has 56 horses in training, has purposely decided to place his bet on track where the betting directly benefits horsemen by going into prize-money. He has already wired the funds to Churchill Downs.

Horse Racing Jim McIngvale: will be betting on Essential Quality in Kentucky Derby
Jim McIngvale (behind, second from right) after Runhappy’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint win in 2015. Photo: Breeders’ Cup/Weasie Gaines

KYHBPA executive director Marty Maline said: “A bet at the track contributes far more to purses than anywhere else it might be placed. Good for Mattress Mack.”

Kentucky Derby betting (Ladbrokes): 5-2 Essential Quality, 11-2 Rock Your World, 9 Known Agenda, Hot Rod Charlie, 11 Medina Spirit, Highly Motivated, 14 Mandaloun, 16 O Besos, Super Stock, 20 Midnight Bourbon, Dynamic One, 25 Bourbonic, 33 Like The King, Helium, King Fury, Soup And Sandwich, 40 Sainthood, 50 Brooklyn Strong, 80 Keepmeinmind, Hidden Stash.

• Visit the Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protection Association website

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