Undefeated champion Essential Quality heads a field of 20 entered in Saturday’s 147th running of the Grade I, $3 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
This means barring any scratches, the track’s special 20-stall starting gate will be filled to capacity for the 1 1/4-mile classic. The first Kentucky Derby in which the 20-stall gate was used was the 2020 renewal, which Authentic won while defeating 14 foes. Prior to that, Churchill utilized a 14-stall gate and a six-stall auxiliary gate, with space between the two gates.
Getting right to it, my selections for this year’s Run for the Roses are below:
1. Essential Quality (2-1 morning-line favorite)
2. Rock Your World (5-1)
3. Known Agenda (6-1)
4. Hot Rod Charlie (8-1)
My expectation is it is going to be either Essential Quality or Rock Your World draped in the garland of roses.
Is it clever, bold or cool to pick the favorite on top? No, absolutely not. Actually, it’s rather boring.
I do get the impression that a lot of people are going to pick and bet against Essential Quality. They will go shopping for a horse at a better price. They will be looking for so-called “value.”
While Essential Quality’s odds were never going to have much appeal, his price now will be even more negatively affected due to what Jim “Mattress Mac” McIngvale has vowed to do.
McIngvale has said he plans to make a bet of at least $2 million to win on “the Derby favorite,” which is almost certainly going to be Essential Quality. McIngvale will be placing the wager as a hedge on a mattress promotion that is tied to “the Derby favorite.”
McIngvale’s Gallery Furniture stores are promising customers who buy a mattress for $3,000 or more will receive a complete refund on the purchase price, up to $5,000, if the favorite wins the Derby “on the first Saturday of May.” The promotion will also give those same customers a 150% store credit, up to $7,500, if they choose to decline the mattress refund, McIngvale has said.
The mattress promotion was made “on the Derby favorite [rather than a single horse] because the favorite has won six out of the last eight years,” Daily Racing Form’s Matt Hegarty quoted McIngvale as saying. “So we thought that was best for the customers.”
The exact size of McIngvale’s bet will be determined by the total amount of liability the company is facing from its mattress sales in the days leading up to the Derby, according to McIngvale. That liability currently is projected to be $2 million, but it could go higher.
McIngvale has made similar huge “hedge wagers” in the past. Earlier this year, he bet $3.2 million on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl. Tampa Bay won by a score of 31-9.
“He cashed the bet, but it only covered the store’s liability, so it was a wash,” Hegarty wrote.
While the Derby win pool is expected to be $35 million or more, “a $2 million win bet will obviously make a significant impact on a horse’s odds,” Hegarty wrote.
McIngvale, who is behind the bombardment of advertising for the sire Runhappy, said the Derby bet will be “by far” the largest wager he has ever placed on a horse race.
Bill Finley of the Thoroughbred Daily News noted that it’s believed that McIngvale’s bet will be the largest placed on any U.S. horse race.
Keep in mind, if Essential Quality does get the job done at relatively low odds, those who elect to put their money on someone else to win the race will not be cashing. A concept “value shoppers” sometimes just don’t get is a void mutuel ticket has absolutely no “value.”
Editor's note: For more of Jon White's April 28 blog "It's Post Time," visit Xpressbet.com.
(Essential Quality photo courtesy Keeneland.)