Backside Learning Center Has Vested Interest in Derby

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Brook Smith (left) and Jim McIngvale were honored as 'Persons of Impact' at a fundraiser at the Louisville Thoroughbred Society last month | BLC photo

Edited Press Release

The Backside Learning Center at Churchill Downs stands to gain anywhere between $200,000 and $400,000 based on the results of Saturday's GI Kentucky Derby beneath the Twin Spires.

In January, Brook Smith–a longtime supporter of the BLC–placed a $10,000 Kentucky Derby Future Wager on Tiz the Bomb (Hit It a Bomb), pledging any winnings to the center. A Derby victory would be worth $114,000.

Smith's wager was a friendly challenge to Texas-based businessman and famed sports bettor “Mattress Mack” Jim McIngvale's Future Wager bet for the same amount on Smile Happy, a son of McIngvale's 2015 champion sprinter and current Claiborne Farm stallion Runhappy. The BLC used Smith's largesse as an opportunity to reach out to McIngvale, the Houston furniture magnate as famous for his philanthropy as he is his huge Gallery Furniture promotions tied to the outcome of famous sporting events.

“We wanted to engage him in our important mission of providing support and resources to the entire community of track workers and their families,” said Sherry Stanley, executive director of the BLC. “McIngvale's been a significant supporter of equine workers all over the country in the past. He was immediately interested in connecting with the BLC. We are thrilled to have Jim as a new high-profile advocate for our work.”

“Mattress Mack” appeared as a special guest at the BLC'S “Thoroughbred Owners' Derby Handicapping Social”, held Apr. 14 at the downtown Louisville Thoroughbred Society. McIngvale announced at the event that if the Kentucky Derby favorite or Smile Happy were to win America's greatest horse race, he would donate $200,000 to the Backside Learning Center to sponsor summer camp experiences for children of backside workers.

“The backside has helped so many people that put their heart and soul into the horse-racing business,” McIngvale said. “If we can bring in money, resources and networks, we can help the backbone of the horse-racing industry–which are these hardworking people who are taking care of the animals 24/7.”

In another twist, Smith upped his ante by announcing that if any horse other than the favorite or Smile Happy win, he will make his own donation of $200,000.

At the same fundraiser, Mike Mackin, a part-owner of Smile Happy, said the ownership group would pitch in another $200,000 if their colt prevails Saturday.

“Mack said he'd give the Backside Learning Center $200,000 if Smile Happy won and I said we'd match it,” Mackin said. “I'm just starting to learn about the Backside Learning Center. But from what I've learned, they are doing great work in helping the people who care for our horses.”

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