Mattress Mack is having some month.
When Alluring Lady (Runhappy) won a maiden special weight race at Aqueduct on Jan. 24, the filly's victory kicked off a torrid streak for her sire. Over a 25-day period, she was one of eight Runhappys to win a race, a list that includes his first stakes winner, Gander S. winner Nicky The Vest.
The Aqueduct winner came just 14 days before Jim McIngvale won the biggest bet of his life, cashing for $3.2 million after betting on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to cover the spread in the Super Bowl. On Thursday, Whoopi Goldberg, on her show The View, suggested that McIngvale be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his on-going efforts to provide, food, heat and shelter for residents of Houston that have been hit hard by the vicious winter storm.
“We have an obligation and a responsibility to help the people because they have helped us so much,” said McIngvale, who has provided shelter for hundreds of people at his Houston furniture store.
Runhappy's sudden success would have been hard to predict back in the early fall. McIngvale was offering a $100,000 bonus to any offspring of Runhappy that won an open maiden race at Saratoga, the summer meet at Del Mar or Kentucky Downs. Not only did the sire fail to produce a winner at any of those three meets, but his progeny was struggling throughout the country. Through September, he had produced just two winners.
“I certainly never gave up on him,” McIngvale said. “I did that 2-year-old bonus that created a lot of hype and then my sister-in-law reminded me that the great Runhappy didn't win his first race until December of his 2-year old year. I made a boneheaded mistake promoting him like I did when his first crop was just two.”
What McIngvale didn't know at the time was that the Runhappys would turn out to be late developers that prefer going a distance, a surprise since the sire was the 2015 Eclipse Award winning sprinter.
“The people from Claiborne kept telling me that the great Bull Hancock always said you can't judge a stallion until their first crop has gotten through their whole 4-year-old year,” he said. “I believe in the Claiborne philosophy. Certainly, his 3-year-olds are, so far, doing very well. Win, lose or draw, I'm always pleased with Runhappy, but right now he is on a roll.”
Among the recent winners, Nicky the Vest could turn out to be the best. A New York-bred owned by Robert LaPenta and trained by Jonathan Thomas, he kicked off his career with a maiden win in December before romping by 11 3/4 lengths in the Gander. His connections have said they will look for a traditional prep for the GI Kentucky Derby for his next start.
“I am very excited about Nicky the Vest,” McIngvale said. “He's got great connections behind him and they absolutely know what they're doing. He is exciting and so is the horse (Run Classic) that won other day at Fair Grounds. There are a lot of exciting Runhappys out there.”
McIngvale owns several Runhappys, but has had little success with them. He said that should change later on this year.
“We have a lot of quality 2-year-olds by Runhappy,” he said. “With our 3-year-olds, a couple of them have had some nagging injuries and are still coming around. We're really optimistic about the 2-year-olds. We've got some nice ones that are fast.”
Before the streak began, Runhappy's stud fee for this year was cut from $25,000 to $10,000. Had they had more time to make a decision, that may not have happened. But McIngvale said he is fine with the new fee.
“I am a value guy,” McIngvale said. “Cutting the stud fee makes Runhappy the best value in the stallion book, especially considering what he has done recently. He should have a good year. We're in this for the long term and not just for one season.”
While the new stud fee may cost McIngvale some money, he's in a good position to absorb some of the loss. When he bets, he bets a lot. Just prior to the Super Bowl, McIngvale flew to Colorado, where sports betting is legal, and bet $3.46 million on the Bucs after logging on to a DraftKings mobile betting app. He got Tampa Bay and Tom Brady at +3.5 points. With Tampa crushing Kansas City, the outcome of his bet was never in serious doubt.
“There wasn't a lot of tension in that game so I didn't have to sweat it out or throw anything at the television,” he said.
McIngvale often links his large wagers to promotions at his stores, Gallery Furniture. But for now, he's more focused on helping out a community in need. He said he decided to open his stores up to the public after driving down a Houston street and witnessing paramedics deal with a homeless person who had apparently died of exposure.
“We hope to be back to normalcy,” he said. “But until then, we're here for Houston because tough times never last for us Texans. Tough people do. And we're tough Texans.”
He has also been busy putting together a new ad campaign for Runhappy, which debuted this week. McIngvale is still quite the promoter and this time he has something to promote.