Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale was up to his usual betting hijinks again this weekend, as he put a total of $2.6 million on Kentucky Derby favorite Epicenter to win the world’s most famous horse race. And it looked for a moment like he was going to cash in, too, until 80-1 longshot Rich Strike came charging down the rail, seemingly out of nowhere, to win in the last few moments.
It was one of the most amazing races in Kentucky Derby history and arguably the most memorable in a long, long time. Rich Strike only got into the Derby on Friday when another horse had to be scratched.
“We found out about 30 seconds before the deadline on Friday,” Rich Strike owner Rick Dawson said. “It put us in the race, and, really, we always felt if we just got in we’ve got a shot.”
Rich Strike had only won twice previously and because of the horse’s low standing, it started all the way on the outside out of 20 horses. The horse was really nowhere to be found during the race and was in the bottom five or coming out of the final turn. All eyes were on Epicenter, as the horse was trying to catch leaders Crown Pride and Messier.
But if you looked closely, you might have noticed #21 Epicenter in red and white, squeezing past a slew of competitors toward the rail. As the track announcer excitedly called out the leaders, Rich Strike weaved around horses and snuck up on the Crown Pride. It passed Crown Pride on the right and, still being ignored by the announcer, gained ground quickly on Zandon and Epicenter, which had taken the lead.
Then, all of a sudden, everyone noticed. The announcer, astonished, yelled, “RICH STRIKE IS COMING UP ON THE INSIDE! OH MY GOODNESS, THE LONGEST SHOT HAS WON THE KENTUCKY DERBY!”
And not only was Rich Strike the longest shot to win, it was one of the longest shots to ever win the Derby. A bet on Rich Strike earned the second-largest payout ($163.60 based on a $2 bet) since 1908.
And with that, Mattress Mack lost another massive bet. But don’t feel too badly for him. Not only is he filthy rich, but he uses these bets as a hedge against a promotion at his Gallery Furniture store in Houston. If his bet wins, anyone who bought at least $3,000 worth of furniture during a specified time period received a 100% refund of their purchase. He lost, of course, but the idea was to bring in plenty of business through the promo to at least make up for a good chunk of his loss. McIngvale considers the difference a marketing expense.
Mattress Mack won his previous bet, wagering a total of $5.55 million before the Final Four on the Kansas Jayhawks to win the title. They did, and McIngvale profited over $10.5 million.
Before that, he lost $9.5 million when the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals in this year’s Super Bowl.
Image credit: Benjamin Thomas via Flickr