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Mystik Dan clings on for victory in Kentucky Derby thriller

Mystik Dan clings on for victory in Kentucky Derby thriller
Mystik Dan clings on for victory in Kentucky Derby thriller

Mystik Dan just held on by a nose in a three-way photo-finish to claim Kentucky Derby glory for trainer Kenny McPeek and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.

Sierra Leone came home strongly but couldn’t quite give his Coolmore owners compensation for City Of Troy’s disappointing display in the 2000 Guineas, while Japanese raider Forever Young was another nose back in third.

The 150th ‘Run for the Roses’ took place on a 10-furlong dirt track described as running fast after a glorious day in Louisville had dried up Friday night’s rain.

A crowd of 156,710 packed into Churchill Downs let out an almighty roar, as Track Phantom took an early lead, flanked by Just Steel and the favourite Fierceness.

That trio held sway until the turn for home, when Mystik Dan burst through on the inside rail and quickly stormed into a three-length lead.

Sierra Leone and Forever Young fought hard to claw back the deficit and were closing in on the leader with every stride, but the finishing line came just in time for Mystik Dan.

It completed a memorable double for the successful trainer and jockey, who had won the Kentucky Oaks with Thorpedo Anna 24 hours earlier, and McPeek told NBC Sports: “Brian just did an amazing job – just a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant jockey and ride.

“The draw (stall three) helped us from the beginning but Brian is amazing, probably one of the most underrated riders in racing, but not anymore, right!”

Hernandez admitted the long wait for the result to be confirmed was agonising, stating: “This is just unbelievable, that was the longest few minutes I’ve ever felt in my life, waiting for them to put that number up.

“It was exciting when we hit the front but I wasn’t sure we had won, so it was quite a rush to stay there and wait for it.

CORRECTION Kentucky Derby Horse Racing
Brian Hernandez Jr riding Mystik Dan (right) to win the Kentucky Derby (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

“This is a lifetime achievement. This goes to our whole family, we’ve all worked all our lives for this and it’s hard to describe what kind of feeling this is.

“I always told myself I was never going to step into the Derby winner’s circle until I can do it on the back of a horse, so to be able to live that dream from when I was a six-year-old kid on my grandparents’ farm, telling them all I was going to the Kentucky Derby one day – and here we are.

“It surely makes the last 20 years of getting up at five in the morning and finding horses to ride and finding people to give us opportunities all come to fruition on days like yesterday and today.

“It’s hard to put into words and it’s probably going to take about a week to sink in before we say hey, we won the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks in the same year.”

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