AP

Mystik Dan wins 150th Kentucky Derby in a 3-horse photo finish

May 4, 2024, 4:36 PM | Updated: 5:53 pm

Mystik Dan wins 150th Kentucky Derby by a nose in a 3-horse photo finish, edging out Forever Young ...

Sierra Leone, with jockey Tyler Gaffalione, (2), Forever Young, with jockey Ryusei Sakai, and Mystik, with jockey Dan Brian Hernandez Jr., cross finish line at Churchill Downs during the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race Saturday, May 4, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The 150th Kentucky Derby produced one of the most dramatic finishes in its storied history — three noses at the wire.

Mystik Dan desperately fought to hang on with two challengers coming to him in the closing strides. He did, too, after a delay of several minutes while the closest three-horse photo finish since 1947 was sorted out.

That year, Jet Pilot won by a head over Phalanx and a length ahead of Faultless.

Mystik Dan, an 18-1 shot, edged Sierra Leone by a nose, with Forever Young another nose back in third on Saturday.

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. squeezed Mystik Dan through a tight spot to reach the rail turning for home and the bay colt suddenly found another gear. He took off down the stretch and built a slight lead.

“When he shot through that spot, he was able to cut the corner and I asked him to go for it,” Hernandez said. “He shot off and I’m like, ‘Oh man, I’ve got a big chance to win the Kentucky Derby.’”

Mystik Dan got so close to the rail that Hernandez’s boot struck it.

“But I think we can buy another pair of boots,” he said.

The winner’s share of the record $5 million purse was $3.1 million, with the jockey and trainer typically earning 10% each.

“Just a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant jockey and ride,” McPeek said. “Brian is one of the most underrated jockeys, but not anymore, right?”

Sierra Leone, the second choice at 9-2 odds, and Forever Young from Japan gave chase and pressured the leader to the wire in front of 156,710 at Churchill Downs, the largest crowd since 2018.

It was just the 10th Kentucky Derby decided by a nose — the closest margin in horse racing — and the first since Grindstone edged Cavonnier to wear the garland of red roses in 1996.

The crowd waited several minutes in the heat and humidity as the result was reviewed by the stewards and declared official.

“The longest few minutes of my life,” Hernandez said, after he and Mystik Dan walked in circles while the stunning result was settled. “To see your number flash up to win the Derby, I don’t think it will sink in for a while.”

Fierceness, the 3-1 favorite, finished 15th in the field of 20 3-year-olds. Owner Mike Repole is 0 for 8 in the derby. He had the favorite in 2011 with Uncle Mo, who was scratched the day before the race with an illness. Last year, Forte was scratched the morning of the race as the favorite with a bruised foot.

Mystik Dan ran 1 1/4 miles over a fast track in 2:03.34 and paid $39.22, $16.32 and $10.

Hernandez and trainer Kenny McPeek had teamed for a wire-to-wire win in the Kentucky Oaks for fillies on Friday with Thorpedo Anna. McPeek is the first trainer to sweep both races since Ben Jones in 1952.

McPeek’s only other victory in a Triple Crown race was also a shocker: 70-1 Sarava won the 2002 Belmont Stakes — the biggest upset in that race’s history. The colt spoiled the Triple Crown bid of War Emblem.

The winning owners are cousins Lance and Brent Gasaway and Daniel Hamby III, all from Arkansas.

Sierra Leone returned $6.54 and $4.64. Forever Young was another nose back in third and paid $5.58 to show.

Sierra Leone lugged in and bumped Forever Young three times in the stretch, but jockey Ryusei Sakai didn’t claim foul.

Catching Freedom was fourth, followed by T O Password of Japan, Resilience, Stronghold, Honor Marie and Endlessly. Dornoch was 10th and then came Track Phantom, West Saratoga, Domestic Product, Epic Ride, Fierceness, Society Man, Just Steel, Grand Mo the First, Catalytic and Just a Touch.

AP

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