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‘Mattress Mack’ plans to make massive bet on Kentucky Derby

Mattress Mack is headed back to the Kentucky Derby, where he lost $5 million in wagers the last two years.

“I haven’t won the last two times, so I think I’m overdue,” Houston furniture store owner Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale said.

After losing $2.6 million last year on Kentucky Derby favorite Epicenter and $2.4 million on 2021 favorite Essential Quality, McIngvale plans to make another seven-figure wager Saturday on the favorite, which as of Friday was Forte.

“I’ll bet $1 million to $1.5 million, at least,” he said Friday afternoon. “It depends on the sales.”

The bets will be the latest in a series of wagers to reduce risk on furniture promotions. In this case, customers who make a purchase of $3,000 or more at his Gallery Furniture stores will get their money back if the Kentucky Derby favorite wins.

“Furniture sales aren’t as robust as they were the last couple of years because of the high interest rate,” said McIngvale, 72.

To ensure he bets on the favorite, McIngvale plans to wait until close to the 3:57 p.m. PT post time before placing his wager.

Forte was the 3-1 morning-line favorite, followed by Tapit Trice at 5-1. But rumors abounded that Forte was going to be scratched from the Triple Crown race after he stumbled Thursday during a gallop at Churchill Downs.

On Friday, trainer Todd Pletcher said Forte is fine and ready for the “Run for the Roses.” But McIngvale isn’t sure if his misstep will affect his odds.

“That’s the $64,000 question. Even if he does run, will they go up because of the little scare he had?” McIngvale said. “What I don’t want to do is bet on the horse that’s the second favorite and the favorite wins. Then I’ll lose both ways.

“We’ve just got to pay attention the last couple minutes. Normally, it’s pretty obvious a half hour before the race who is going to be the favorite.”

Favorites had won the Kentucky Derby in six of the seven years before McIngvale began his promotions on the race. He appeared to be moments away from winning $12 million on last year’s race as Epicenter led and was dueling down the stretch with Zandon when Rich Strike — the longest shot in the field at 80-1 — came charging up the rail for a stunning upset by three-quarters of a length. Epicenter settled for second.

McIngvale, who owns 45 thoroughbreds, also lost six figures on last year’s race on Smile Happy, the son of Runhappy, the 2015 champion sprinter owned by Mack.

Coincidentally, Smile Happy won the Alysheba Stakes by two lengths Friday at Churchill Downs in a race that also featured Rich Strike, who finished fifth.

“He destroyed him. That horse (Rich Strike) was a one-hit wonder,” McIngvale said. “I’ve got a real good one that’s going to win the Kentucky Derby next year. His name is Availability. The best ability is availability.”

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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