Mystik Dan wins 150th Kentucky Derby in photo finish

May 4, 2024; Louisville, KY, USA; Mystik Dan (right) wins the Kentucky Derby in a photo finish at Churchill Downs. Mandatory Credit: Michael Clevenger and Christopher Granger-USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — It was a three-way thriller to the wire in the 150th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

Mystik Dan, ridden by Brian Hernandez, held on late to win a three-way photo finish by just a nose over Sierra Leone and Forever Young to capture the first leg of the Triple Crown on Saturday night in front of 156,710 fans.


“It’s like a dream come true,” Hernandez said. Sent off at odds of 18-1, Mystik Dan made the turn for home in front and stayed on the rail with Forever Young just to his outside and Sierra Leone on the far outside.

There was a gasp from the crowd as the three colts hit the finish line. It took several minutes for the racing stewards to look at the finish line photo and declare Mystik Dan the winner.

“Those were the longest few minutes of my life,” Hernandez said. “To see your number flash up to win the Derby.

“I don’t think it will sink in for a while.”

It was just the 10th Kentucky Derby decided by a nose — which is the closest margin you can have in horse racing — and it was the first nose decision since Grindstone edged out Cavonnier in the 1996 Derby.

“Brian Hernandez won this race today,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “We certainly gave him the horse, but he won this race. What a great ride Brian gave this horse today.” The win was the first Kentucky Derby for Hernandez and McPeek, who teamed up to win the Kentucky Oaks on Friday with Thorpedo Anna. It is the first time since 1952 that a trainer has swept both races in the same year when Ben Jones won them both and the first time a jockey has accomplished the feat since 2009 when Calvin Borel won both on the same weekend.

McPeek actually called his shot, two weeks ago saying, “I really feel like I’m going to win them both.”

The Lexington, Ky., native won them both … but the Derby was in thrilling fashion.

“For three weeks, I’ve felt like we were going to win both races,” McPeek said. “I can’t tell you why. Both horses have been easy to deal with, the team has done such a great job every day. There’s been no drama.

“I just believe in mojo, in positive energy and we’ve had a lot of it.”

McPeek, who was second in the 1995 Derby with Tejano Run, and Hernandez came into the weekend 0-for-33 in the Oaks and Derby races. The previous best finish for Hernandez was McCracken in eighth in 2017.

“It still hasn’t sunk in, it’s so unbelievable,” Hernandez said. “We came into the weekend thinking that we had a really big chance at winning both Friday and Saturday. For the horses to pull it off for us, we have to thank the guys back in the barn. It’s definitely a surreal moment.

“The last 20 years I’ve ridden in Kentucky, and as a young kid out of Louisiana, I had the chance of sitting in the same corner as Calvin Borel. Watching him ride all those Derbys all those years, and today with Mystik Dan, being in the 3 hole, I watched a couple of his rides, with Super Saver and Mine That Bird, and I decided that we were going to roll the dice. We had the right kind of horse to give him that kind of trip.”

Derby favorite Fierceness, at 3-1, finished 15th in the 20-horse field.

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

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