by Nick Tammaro
Marketing. Promotion. Advertising. Those are words that are often kicked around boardrooms and offices throughout the world. For “Mattress Mack” they are the fundamental elements of a business that has been successful for four decades. For the people whose lives he's touched, and they are innumerable, he means everything.
My personal involvement in racing is vast, but I've long considered myself a student of the game. I handicap, play the races, make speed figures, participate in contests, appear on radio and occasionally on TV.
A few weeks ago as I sat at my desk, which incidentally was delivered the same day I bought it at Gallery Furniture, I received a phone call. The man on the other end was none other than Mattress Mack. As much as my heart still flutters when Andy Beyer calls me, I was equally stunned to hear the thundering tones of a voice I'd heard for years telling me and my fellow Houstonians that he would save us money. In short order, he explained to me that he had an idea for a furniture promotion and needed some assistance.
Armed with a new task, I feverishly prepared a spreadsheet with the desired info. I honestly had no idea what a $2-3 million bet would do to the Kentucky Derby win pool. With the assistance of a far sharper compatriot, I had the information. I returned the phone call and delivered it to Mack. Days later, promos appeared on TV and radio around the nation's fourth largest city. If you spent more than $3,000 at Gallery on a mattress, you were getting a full refund if the favorite won the Derby. The promotion was ingenious. In a day and age where inventory is limited, he would not only move a desired product, but a host of new viewers were set to lock in for the greatest two minutes in sports.
As the Derby neared, we continued to talk strategy. There were moving parts that included how much liability Mack would try to cover with his wager. How and where he'd bet were discussed, and at what price might the favorite go off was a concern. Things went perfectly pre-race. Mack's four separate wagers went into the pool without having a dramatic effect on the odds. In fact, Essential Quality's odds drifted up shortly before post time.
Regardless of the outcome, the attention that the largest wager in Kentucky Derby history brought the game is significant. That attention stretches beyond the wagerer's individual interests. Since Mack's bet was made on track, Kentucky horsemen will benefit with the maximum yield possible to the purse account. The bet was discussed on social media, television, and beyond.
Mack has poured millions into advertising in racing. We have all chuckled at the frequency with which we see the name “Runhappy.” But think for a second about what that has facilitated. Race sponsorships and television broadcasts such as the fabulous “America's Day at the Races” exist, at least in part, for that reason. Mack regaled me with tales of Runhappy's career like a proud father.
Make no mistake, Mack has always “walked the walk.” His desire is for the game that he loves to flourish. He has always put his money where his mouth is and will continue to be a leading voice on wagering advancements, medication policy changes, integrity measures and more.
Houstonians will tell you that Mack is the man we rely on when we are in need. He has provided shelter and comfort from wind, rain, cold, and fire. We know that Mack loves us, as he does everyone that has crossed his path. Let us celebrate him and continue to let his voice resonate in our game. They'll never make another one like him.
Nick Tammaro is a horseplayer from Houston who became acquainted with Mattress Mack as a Gallery Furniture customer. Upon saying the word “Runhappy” their mutual passion for racing formed an immediate bond.