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Essential Quality's odds drop after 'Mattress Mack' places major bet

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

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — 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.

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“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. Earlier this year, he bet $3.46 million on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were +3.5-point underdogs against the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

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

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