150th Kentucky Derby: Mystik Dan Wins

Mystik Dan Wins Kentucky Derby
Brian Hernandez Jr. rides Mystik Dan, right, runs to the finish line to win the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race at Churchill Downs Saturday, May 4, 2024, in Louisville, Ky. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
The 150th Kentucky Derby witnessed one of its most thrilling conclusions in history, with three horses neck-and-neck at the finish line. Mystik Dan fought tenaciously to maintain his lead as two challengers closed in during the final strides. After a suspenseful delay of several minutes, the closest three-horse photo finish since 1947 was resolved.

In 1947, Jet Pilot won by a head over Phalanx, who was just ahead of Faultless by another head. However, this year’s finish was even tighter.

Mystik Dan, an 18-1 underdog, clinched victory by a nose over Sierra Leone, with Forever Young trailing just behind in third place. Notably, Sierra Leone was the most expensive contender in the race, valued at $2.3 million.

During the early stages of the race, long shots Track Phantom and Just Steel led the pack, while the 3-1 favorite, Fierceness, raced closely behind.

The turning point came at the top of the stretch when Track Phantom veered off the rail, creating an opportunity for Hernandez to guide Mystik Dan through a narrow gap. Seizing the moment, Mystik Dan surged ahead, leaving the rest of the field behind.

On the outside, Sierra Leone and Forever Young mounted a pursuit, but Mystik Dan maintained his lead despite a series of bumps between Sierra Leone and Forever Young.

Mystik Dan’s victory was so close to the rail that Hernandez’s boot struck it, but he remained undeterred, expressing confidence that he could easily replace the damaged footwear.

The winner’s share of the $5 million purse amounted to $3.1 million, with the jockey and trainer typically receiving 10% each.

Trainer Kenny McPeek praised jockey Hernandez for his exceptional performance, remarking on his previously underrated status in the sport.

Sierra Leone, the second favorite at odds of 9-2, and Forever Young from Japan narrowly missed victory, disappointing their trainers despite their strong performances.

This Kentucky Derby marked only the 10th time in history that the race was decided by a nose, making it one of the closest margins in horse racing. The last time was in 1996 when Grindstone narrowly defeated Cavonnier.

As the stewards reviewed the result, the crowd anxiously waited in the heat and humidity for the outcome to be declared official, making it a nerve-wracking experience for all involved.

Mystik Dan completed the 1 1/4-mile race on a fast track in 2:03.34 and paid $39.22 to win, $16.32 to place, and $10 to show.

Trainer Kenny McPeek had a remarkable weekend, securing victories in both the Kentucky Oaks and the Kentucky Derby, a feat not achieved since 1952.

The winning owners, Lance and Brent Gasaway and Daniel Hamby III, expressed their disbelief and joy at the unexpected victory, emphasizing that Mystik Dan came from humble origins.

Sierra Leone returned $6.54 to place and $4.64 to show, while Forever Young paid $5.58 to show.

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