The Latest: Furniture dealer to wager $2M on Kentucky Derby

A Houston furniture dealer nicknamed “Mattress Mack” who owns horses is placing a big-money bet on the Kentucky Derby


1:10 p.m.

A Houston furniture dealer who owns horses is placing a big-money bet on the Kentucky Derby.

Jim McIngvale, nicknamed “Mattress Mack,” is wagering at least $2 million on Saturday’s race, which will be the largest in Derby history. He doesn’t have a horse of his own in the race, so he plans to bet on 2-1 morning-line favorite Essential Quality.

McIngvale will place the bet in person at Churchill Downs rather than through a legal bookmaker. The Louisville track receives about 10% of all on-track wagering, so a $2 million bet on Essential Quality will reap about $200,000 for purses. The amount would be far less if the money were wagered through simulcasting, online or at a casino.

“I wanted to go where the track’s dollars were maximized and the horse owners’ dollars were maximized to support the ecosystem of the entire game,” he said.

The Derby is a pari-mutuel race in which gamblers bet against each other, so McIngvale’s whopper of a wager will affect the betting pool.

McIngvale is well known for tying major sports events into promotions at his Gallery Furniture stores, where he sheltered storm victims in the wake of Houston’s flooding in 2019.

He also collaborated with Churchill Downs to bring about 300 foster parents, alumni and social service workers to the Derby.


12:30 p.m.

Unbeaten Essential Quality is the 2-1 morning line favorite for Saturday’s 147th Run for the Roses featuring 19 horses. Post time is set for 6:57 p.m. Eastern for the 12th of 14 races, with more than 45,000 fans expected beneath the Twin Spires, or 100,000 less than usual. That’s still a big improvement from last year’s Derby, run on Labor Day weekend in virtual silence and out of sequence as the Triple Crown’s second jewel instead of its first. It was moved from the first Saturday in May for the first time in 75 years.

Essential Quality is last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Louisville-born Brad Cox, who would make Derby history as the first native son to win. The other top contenders are Rock Your World (5-1), Known Agenda (6-1) and Hot Rod Charlie (8-1).


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