McIngvale To Place Derby Bet On Track

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Jim McIngvale | Patty Wolfe photo

Owner James 'Mattress Mack' McIngvale, who earlier this week announced that he would be making a bet in excess of $2-million as a hedge against a promotion in which customers of his Gallery Furniture chain will be refunded in the event that favored Essential Quality (Tapit) prevails, has confirmed that the bet will be placed on site at Churchill Downs in order to maximize the money that goes to purses.

McIngvale has bet through casinos on similar promotions on the World Series and Super Bowl, where he is able to secure fixed odds. But he is committed to placing the bet at Churchill, which allows local horsepeople to benefit most.

“This is the first horse-racing event I've been able to use as a promotion,” said McIngvale. “The people at Churchill Downs have been great working with me on using their trademarks and this and that. Of course, I've been receiving calls from across the country, legal bookmakers wanting me to bet with them, people in some states where they don't contribute much if anything to the [betting] pool. Their pitch is that $2 million won't effect the pool, but you'll get the same odds as you would at Churchill.

He continued, “Well, I don't want to do that, because I'm a horseman. I know what pays those purses is the handle. So, all the money I'm betting will be at Churchill Downs. Let's face it, Churchill Downs has to make some money, too, to put on the show. So, it's good for Churchill, which is a tremendous track and promoter of horse racing, but most of all it's good for the owners, trainers, jockeys, the backstretch workers who put their life into the game. I didn't want to bet someplace else or offshore. 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.”

The purse account at Churchill receives about 10% of all on-track wagering, so a bet of $2 million will contribute about $200,000 to purses. That number would be half–or less–if the wager were placed through other means.

McIngvale has already wired $4 million to Churchill Downs and plans to spend Derby day at the track.

“I haven't decided how much I'm going to bet. It depends on how many mattresses we sell,” he said. “But it will be at least $2 million. 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. I'm just worried about Essential Quality. I hope he wins. He's deserving. It should be a great event. I'm just glad that whatever money I'm betting will go mainly to the horsemen and Churchill Downs, where it deserves to go.”

Marty Maline, executive director of the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent Protective Association, applauded McIngvale's move to bet on track.

“When people see these monstrous numbers in total handle wagered on a track's card, they think the horsemen get a tremendous split from all of that,” Maline said. “But there's a huge difference between $100 bet on a racetrack and $100 bet off-track as far as what goes to purses. I certainly don't want to denigrate the ADWs, because that's broadened the market and allowed people to bet who otherwise couldn't. But a bet at the track contributes far more to purses than anywhere else it might be placed. Good for Mattress Mack.”

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