Mattress Mack thought he had it.
Houston furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale appeared to be moments away from winning $2.6 million in wagers Saturday on Kentucky Derby favorite Epicenter that would have paid an estimated $12 million.
Epicenter led and was dueling down the stretch with Zandon when Rich Strike — the longest shot in the 20-horse field at 80-1 — came charging up the rail for a stunning upset by three-quarters of a length. Epicenter settled for second.
“I thought I was home,” said Mack, who compared the crushing defeat to losing $9.5 million on the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl. “It reminded me of the Bengals-Rams gut punch.”
Mack, who appeared on NBC’s national broadcast of the Triple Crown race, placed a $1.5 million wager on Epicenter to win shortly before it started, moving the horse’s odds from 5-1 to 9-2.
Afterward, he told the Review-Journal he lost a total of $2.6 million, including “lots of exotics.”
“You win some and you lose some, and sometimes you get rained out,” said Mack, 71. “Gonna put my big boy britches on tomorrow morning and go back to work.”
The bets were to reduce risk on a furniture promotion that offered refunds on purchases of $3,000 or more if the favorite won the Kentucky Derby.
The loss by Epicenter also was a gut punch to the horse’s co-owners — Las Vegas businessman Ron Winchell and his mother, Joan — and Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, now 0-for-24 at the Kentucky Derby. Winchell’s father, Verne Winchell, founded Winchell’s Donut House, and Ron developed Winchell’s Pub & Grill.
Mixed bag for books
Rich Strike’s victory was the second-biggest upset in the Kentucky Derby’s 148-year history behind Donerail, who won in 1913 as a 91-1 long shot. Country House won in 2019 as a 65-1 shot.
Rich Strike was added to the field Friday after Ethereal Road dropped out. The horse paid $163.60 to win, a $2 exacta paid $4,101.20, a $2 trifecta paid $29,741.40, and a $1 superfecta paid $321,500.10.
The result was a mixed bag for sportsbooks, which took bets on Kentucky Derby futures odds and matchups, separate from parimutuel betting.
Circa Sports was a small loser on futures, mostly from wagers placed on Rich Strike on Saturday at 200-1, 150-1 and 100-1.
“People love their long shots,” Circa horse racing oddsmaker Paul Zilm said. “Some people got some big numbers, and that liability adds up quickly.
“It wasn’t anything significant, but if any of the horses behind him win, we’re definitely on the positive side.”
The Westgate SuperBook took a few bets on Rich Strike at 100-1 but was a big winner overall.
“The result was, by far, the best we ever did for the Derby odds future book,” SuperBook vice president of risk Ed Salmons said.
Caesars Sportsbook also won on futures.
“The fastest quarter of a mile ever eliminated some of the heavily bet future selections,” Caesars vice president of trading Craig Mucklow said. “The winner was bet by a few (at Caesars Palace racebook), giving them a nice payout at historic odds. One expert had the $2 exacta.”
Red Rock Resort sportsbook director Chuck Esposito said Station Casinos also paid out a $2 exacta and “a few” trifectas.
“Overall, it was an unbelievable atmosphere,” he said. “One of the biggest crowds I can remember for the Derby.”
While the Westgate did well on futures, SuperBook director John Murray wished more parimutuel players cashed tickets.
“We didn’t have a ton of tickets to cash,” he said. “I’d like the room to be packed with people cashing big trifecta tickets, because you know a lot of that money is going to be run back through the window.”