Kentucky Derby 2022: Mattress Mack Bets Staggering $1.5 Million on Epicenter to Win

by Suzanne Halliburton
Mark Felix for The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Houston businessman known as “Mattress Mack” bet so much money on Epicenter Saturday that he officially made the horse the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby.

How much did he bet? Try $1.5 million, which took Epicenter from 5-1 to 9-2. But so much for favorites. Maybe Mattress Mack got a free mint julep at the race’s end to drown his sorrows. And bartender, keep them coming for Epicenter trainer Steve Asmussen.

Mattress Mack Said He Thought He ‘Was Home’ Near End of Kentucky Derby

Rich Strike, the 80-to-1 longest of long shots at Churchill Downs, made history Saturday. He bucked recent tradition and hung back through the first part of the race, as other others sprinted to the front. Then, jockey Sonny Leon had an uncluttered path against the rail. He finally darted past another horse, then went full gas past Epicenter.

“I thought I was home,” said Mattress Mack of his Kentucky Derby day, “It reminded me of the Bengals-Rams gut punch.”

Mattress Mack, real name Jim McIngvale, talked to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the bet he placed on the Super Bowl. He wagered a total of $9.5 million on Super Bowl betting props, with the Cincinnati Bengals to win.

McIngvale Wanted to Use Bet Winnings to Cover Furniture Promo

McIngvale owns Gallery Furniture in Houston. And his big-time betting has a business purpose. In the days before the Kentucky Derby, Mattress Mack offered a promotion to his customers. He’d refund purchases of $3,000 or more if the Derby favorite won the race. He then bet enough money on Epicenter at Churchill Downs to cover the money he’d have to refund to the customers if the horse won. So see, it was just a business deal gone awry. OK, it was $2.6 million awry. McIngvale spent another $1.1 million on some exotic bets.

“You win some and you lose some, and sometimes you get rained out,” McIngvale told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “Gonna put my big boy britches on tomorrow morning and go back to work.”

You probably should know that Mattress Mack is a beloved figure in Houston. Call him the city’s grandfather and chief protector. When Houston is rocked by a natural disaster, McIngvale steps in to help. Back in 2017, when Hurricane Harvey turned Houston into a gigantic swamp, McIngvale opened his gigantic furniture store to those who couldn’t go back to their flooded homes. He did the same thing during a historical freeze in February 2021.

And McIngvale helps everyone. Last summer, when Hurricane Ida was making a beeline towards Louisiana, Mattress Mack offered his store as a shelter for those fleeing from a state away.

Jockey Sonny Leon celebrates with Rich Strike after the horse won the Kentucky Derby. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Only Derby Victor with Greater Odds Was Donerail in 1913

Let’s circle back to Saturday’s action in Kentucky. Rich Strike beat Epicenter by 3/4’s of a length. Mattress Mack could’ve won almost $13 million at the Kentucky Derby if only Epicenter could’ve held on for the victory.

Rich Strike won with odds of 80 to 1. And if you bet $2, the wager paid $163.60 to win. A $2 exacta paid $4,101.20. And a $2 trifecta ticket paid $29,741.40. Donerail, who won the race in 1913, was the only other Kentucky Derby victor with longer odds. Donerail went off at 91-1.

But long shots do win at the Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit, who won last year’s race before he was disqualified, was a 12-1 And in 2019, Country House was 65-1.

Maybe Mattress Mack will put away his Kentucky Derby angst and ride with Rich Strike at the Preakness. Get your wagers ready. The next leg in the Triple Crown is May 21.