David J. Phillip/Associated Press
Monday, May 7, 2012 | 4:30 p.m.
Immediately after riding I’ll Have Another to victory Saturday in the Kentucky Derby, jockey Mario Gutierrez gave a quote that secured a place in horse racing lore.
“I kept telling everybody, from the first time I met him, I knew he was the one,” Gutierrez told reporters. “I knew he was good.”
Gutierrez wasn’t the only one who knew it. A Las Vegas-based race and sports book discovered that the hard way when I’ll Have Another caught Bodemeister to reach the winners circle at Churchill Downs.
Lucky’s race and sports books, one of the only shops in town that offers futures betting annually on the Kentucky Derby, lost a significant amount of money because of I’ll Have Another’s triumph. Lucky’s — which runs books throughout Nevada including at the Riviera, the D Las Vegas, the Plaza and Terrible’s, locally — printed several tickets on I’ll Have Another to win the Derby earlier this year at odds as high as 200-to-1.
“It was our worst-case scenario,” said Dan Shapiro, who oversees Lucky’s horse book. “It was the first time in four years, since we started offering futures, that we lost money.”
The majority of Lucky’s exposure on I’ll Have Another came in a span of minutes earlier this year. On one day in early February, Lucky’s printed a flood of tickets on the horse at Buffalo Bill’s in Primm.
Shapiro said the book lowered the odds from 200-to-1 four times during the onslaught, but the money kept coming. He could only think of one conceivable explanation to explain the phenomenon: Everyone who worked in I’ll Have Another’s barn wagered on the horse that day.
“It’s not uncommon for them to bet on their horses,” Shapiro said. “Everyone seems to like their horse when they are training. They want to get down on their horse.”
Less than a week after all the bets came in, I’ll Have Another won a stakes race at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif. The track is only 200 miles from the Nevada border where Buffalo Bill’s rests.
“That was the giveaway,” Shapiro said. “It’s really the first sports book for anyone coming from California.”
Lucky’s dropped the odds on I’ll Have Another significantly after he prevailed in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes. A few more bets came in on the horse, but nothing out of the ordinary.
No bets made locally alerted Shapiro like the day in Primm. Wynn Las Vegas also listed I’ll Have Another at 200-to-1 odds since September 2011.
But the horse received little action. Wynn enjoyed a profitable Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another’s victory.
“It was a better than average win for us,” Wynn race and sports book director Johnny Avello reported.
I’ll Have Another is expected to continue his chase for the Triple Crown by racing in the Preakness on May 19 in Baltimore. A win would benefit Las Vegas books by stirring excitement for the Belmont on June 2.
It’s the least I’ll Have Another could do for Lucky’s.
“The bets just kept coming that day,” Shapiro said. “Some were small and some were large. They were all probably just wanting to get bets on him, and we saw why.”