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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Mystik Dan clinches victory in the 2024 Kentucky Derby with an electrifying photo finish

Mystik Dan claimed victory by a slim margin in the 150th Run for the Roses, outpacing Sierra Leone and Forever Young in an exhilarating three-horse finale at Churchill Downs.

Mystik Dan, considered an underdog, pulled off a stunning upset at the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, triumphing by a mere nose and securing a career Triple Crown for trainer Kenny McPeek.

In a gripping three-horse finish at Churchill Downs, Mystik Dan, hugging the rail, surged ahead of the second favorite, Sierra Leone, and Forever Young, clinching a victory that took several minutes to confirm in the dramatic photo finish.

Initially listed at 20-1 odds, Mystik Dan gained slightly more favor from fans, being bet down to 18-1 by race time.

“I wasn’t sure if we had won,” jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. admitted to NBC Sports shortly after the race. “So it was quite a rush to sit here and wait for it.”

Mystik Dan arrived in Louisville with a modest record, having placed third at the Arkansas Derby and won the Grade III Southwest Stakes.

Brian Hernandez Jr. rides Mystik Dan, right, to the finish line to win the 2024 Kentucky Derby.

Both McPeek and Hernandez celebrated their first Derby triumphs, with McPeek having previously trained Swiss Skydiver, the 2020 Preakness Stakes champion, and Sarava, the surprise winner of the 2002 Belmont Stakes.

The Derby victory capped off an extraordinary 24 hours for McPeek and Hernandez, who had also won the Kentucky Oaks the day before with Thorpedo Anna.

McPeek praised Hernandez’s exceptional ride, calling it “brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.”

Mystik Dan completed the 1¼-mile course in 2:03.34.

Despite being the 3-1 favorite, Fierceness finished a disappointing 15th in the 20-horse field.

For Hernandez, whose family has deep roots in horse racing, the victory fulfilled a lifelong dream.

“This is a lifetime achievement,” Hernandez expressed. “This goes to our whole family.”

Mystik Dan may have benefited from Sierra Leone and Forever Young bumping into each other down the stretch as they vied to overtake the leader and eventual winner.

“Oftentimes it’s a game of inches,” remarked Chad Brown, Sierra Leone’s trainer.

Although Sierra Leone fell just short, Brown praised his horse’s performance, saying, “I’m so proud of his effort today. The horse did everything we asked him to do.”

Mystik Dan at Churchill Downs on May 1.

Mystik Dan’s journey towards the Triple Crown continues on May 18 with the 149th running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.

Before the day’s races began at Churchill Downs, celebrities and racing enthusiasts filled the venue, with performances by Wynonna Judd and appearances by Martha Stewart, Chris Tucker, Kid Rock, and others.

Aside from the Derby, the day featured several other high-stakes races, including thrilling victories by long shots like Trikari in the American Turf Stakes and Gun Pilot in the Churchill Downs Stakes, showcasing the excitement and unpredictability of horse racing at its finest.

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