If you like Essential Quality as a bet to win the Kentucky Derby, sorry. The prospective payment is small and is likely to be reduced.
The undefeated two-year-old champion was established as the 2-1 favorite on the morning line by Churchill Downs bookie Mike Battaglia, short of what many expected. “I thought it could be 3–1,” said Essential Quality coach Brad Cox, “but I’m not betting then. … ”
“Mattress Mack” it is betting, and your promised bet will lower the Essential Quality price even further if the gray colt wins the Race for the Roses. Jim McIngvale, owner of the national Gallery Furniture chain, told me he transferred $ 4 million to Churchill on Wednesday in preparation for betting on the Derby favorite in a promotion tied to his chain’s mattress sales. “I can bet $ 2 million, I can bet $ 4 million,” he said, aiming for a total that would cover his guarantee of reimbursing every Gallery Furniture customer who buys a mattress worth $ 3,000 or more if the favorite wins.
Mattress Mack’s monster bet could be the largest single bet in the Derby’s 147-year history, apparently with the certainty of reducing Essential Quality’s odds closer to even money. The only horse sent off with less money in the last 28 Derby races was last year, when Tiz the Law was the 7-10 favorite at post time. He was rejected in a vigorous duel with Authentic.
Does Mattress Mack know what he’s doing? From a business perspective, this is a smart move. From a disability point of view, not necessarily. McIngvale attended his first Derby in 1971 and has been in the Thoroughbred property game for a long time, but that doesn’t make him a fan of racetracks.
“Generally, I don’t choose very well,” he said. “I couldn’t choose my brother in a room full of giraffes.”
Those of us who bet less than $ 2-4 million will also try to avoid picking a giraffe to win. It is never easy to figure out how to bet on a 20 horse race as the permutations are endless. At the end of the week, the information overload is real: everyone has a different theory and everyone has a different perception of how horses look in morning training.
But it all boils down to one essential question about essential quality: Are you as far ahead of your peers as the morning line suggests?
With a 5-0 record and virtually no complications along the way, he is a deserved favorite. Finding holes in your game up to this point is pretty pointless. But should it really be sent to, say, 4-5?
That kind of price is an invitation to find value elsewhere, and the two most attractive candidates are Hot Rod Charlie at 8-1 and Rock Your World at 5-1.
Hot Rod Charlie burst onto the scene with a solid runner-up to Essential Quality last November at the Breeders Cup Juvenile with odds of 94-1. He then marked his Derby ticket with a victory at the Louisiana Derby in March. In both cases, the 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow’s son was at or near a solid early pace and didn’t falter late.
Hot Rod Charlie has trained intensively at Churchill this week for Doug O’Neill, who has won this race twice. At 8-1 odds, he is arguably the best value among the top contenders.
Rock Your World (5-1 morning line) presents a higher advantage than Hot Rod Charlie, but also a higher risk. He didn’t race at age two, which from 1883 to 2017 was an impenetrable impediment to winning the Derby. So Justify did it in 2018, on the way to the Triple Crown, breaking the so-called Curse of Apollo (last unclassified two-year-old to win the Derby to do so before Justify, in 1882).
Like Justify, Rock Your World comes from California undefeated in just three races. Like Justify, he was dazzling in winning the Santa Anita Derby, which perhaps means the arrival of a real monster. Unlike Justify, he is not trained by Bob Baffert, who has won six Kentucky Derbies and knows better than any other man alive how to do it on the first Saturday in May. Rock Your World coach John Sadler is a highly respected West Coast conditioner, but his four previous Derby entrants never finished better than sixth.
The third betting option in the race is 6-1 Known Agenda, the Florida Derby winner coached by Todd Pletcher. The horse pulled off the railing at No. 1 at the starting gate, generally considered the kiss of death in this 20-horse fight for the position heading into the first corner. That may not be a reason to completely dismiss the Known Agenda from your betting plans, but proceed with caution.
At 10-1, Highly Motivated was beaten by a single neck by Essential Quality at the Blue Grass Stakes, giving the undefeated champion his toughest test yet. If you can replicate that effort here, you should be in the mix down the stretch.
Among the longer takes, the intrigue lies in a trio of horses that were defeated by Hot Rod Charlie in the Louisiana Derby: Mandaloun (15-1) tossed a mysterious gizmo there after coming out as the favorite, but has impressed on the Churchill track; Midnight Bourbon (20-1) was second at Louisiana, but selects jockey Mike Smith for the Derby, a race in which he won twice and finished second four times; and O Besos (20-1), who showed an intriguing late surge and can benefit from the extra distance from the Derby.
The race could be played from positions 14-17 at the starting gate. Essential quality breaks from 14, Rock Your World from 15 and Highly Motivated from 17. How they break and then position themselves, and how the rhythm develops, could be the deciding factors.
On paper, this doesn’t look like a group that will burn out during the first half of the 1 1/4 mile race. If it’s a softer pace, that might be a good option for horses that think they’re up front, like Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World, and it might add pressure to Essential Quality rider Luis Sáez not to. let it escape.
Ultimately I see Hot Rod Charlie and Rock Your World leading the stage and Essentially Quality trying to close out in the last furlong. I bet Essential Quality hits the wire first with a thrilling ending.
So I’ll make a modest win bet for him at low odds, plus box an exact one with those three horses, and take into account the rest of the more Highly Motivated Louisiana Derby group on the trifecta and a little swing on the superfecta. I’m not Mattress Mack though. The total bet will be around $ 100, with the total expectation that some horse that I haven’t considered all week will hit the board and blow it all up.
Good luck to everyone who makes a bet.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.