Mystik Dan wins 150th Kentucky Derby in stunning photo finish

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In an extraordinary photo finish, Mystik Dan emerged victorious at the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby Saturday evening at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. Mystik Dan entered the 20-horse race with 18-1 odds. 

Sent off at 18-1 odds, Mystik Dan and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. rode the rail down the stretch with a short lead. 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.

Kentucky Derby Horse Racing 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 on May 4, 2024, in Louisville, Kentucky.

Kiichiro Sato / AP

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

The crowd waited several minutes before the result was reviewed by the stewards and declared official.

“The longest few minutes of my life,” Hernandez said, after he and the bay colt 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.

Mystik Dan will earn $3.1 million from a total purse of $5 million, the largest purse in the race’s history. The purse is split among the top five finishers in the Derby, with $1 million for the runner-up, $500,000 for third place, $250,000 for fourth place and $150,000 for fifth place.

Mystik Dan ran 1 1/4 miles 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 and the fourth overall.

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.

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.

— Alex Sundby contributed reporting.