SPORTS

Mystik Dan wins in a dramatic photo finish at 150th Kentucky Derby

May 4, 2024, 7:24 PM | Updated: 7:35 pm

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. on top of Mystik Dan celebrates after winning the Kentucky Derby at Chur...

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. on top of Mystik Dan celebrates after winning the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 4, 2024. (Rob Carr/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

(Rob Carr/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

Originally Published: 04 MAY 24 06:00 ET
Updated: 04 MAY 24 20:55 ET

(CNN) — Mystik Dan has won the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby in a dramatic photo finish at Churchill Downs on Saturday in Louisville.

Related: The first-timer’s guide to the Kentucky Derby

Mystik Dan edged out Sierra Leone and Forever Young in a rare three-horse photo finish to capture the first leg of the Triple Crown.

The next race of the prestigious Triple Crown is on May 18 at the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

Only 13 horses have won all three races in a single year, with the Bob Baffert trained Justify being the last to accomplish the feat in 2018.

Since the first edition of the race in 1875, it has become the longest continuously held sporting event in the US, and arguably one of the most loved.

Over the years the Kentucky Derby has seen sporting drama, controversy and has crowned some of the best race horses in history.

Photo finishes are rare at the Derby

Entering the race at 18-1 odds, Mystik Dan edged out Sierra Leone and Forever Young in a dramatic three-horse photo finish to capture the first leg of the Triple Crown. Sierra Leone finished in second place, while Forever Young finished in third place.

It was the 10th time in the race’s history a horse has won by a nose and the first since Grindstone in 1996, according to the NBC broadcast. The Derby, in a news release, said it was “the closest three-horse photo finish since 1947 when Jet Pilot finished a head in front of Phalanx and one length ahead of Faultless.”

“This is unbelievable. That was longest few minutes I’ve ever felt in my life waiting for them to hang that number above us,” said jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. after the race.

“It was exciting when we hit the wire but I wasn’t sure if we won so it was quite a rush to sit here and wait for it.”

The victory is the first for Hernandez Jr. and trainer Kenny McPeek at the Kentucky Derby. The winnings total $3.1 million for the race, the Derby said in a news release.

Unrivalled history

The first Kentucky Derby was watched by a crowd of 10,000 people who saw three-year-old chestnut colt Aristides, ridden by jockey Oliver Lewis, triumph at Churchill Downs.

The Derby has been held at the same venue since, even during both World Wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s.

This year, over 150,000 were expected to descend onto the famed racetrack to watch the race and revel in the celebrations.

Some of the greatest horses have won the Derby, including the likes of Secretariat, American Pharoah, Citation and most recently Justify.

The Kentucky Derby is also the first leg of the prestigious Triple Crown, a feat which consists of the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes – only 13 horses have won all three races in a single year.

While the race and the venue has remained much the same, work has been underway to improve safety for horses at the track.

Last year, Churchill Downs announced new safety initiatives as part of an ongoing investigation into a series of horse deaths at the track.

Bob Baffert ban extended

The 150th edition of the Kentucky Derby was run without arguably the most recognizable name in the sport, Bob Baffert.

The 71-year-old, who has trained six Derby winners, has been banned from competing in the race since his horse Medina Spirit tested positive for a banned substance after initially being declared the winner in 2021.

The suspension was initially for two years but was extended by Churchill Downs Incorporated (CDI), the organizer of the horse race and owner of the famed racetrack, to cover this year’s race.

Baffert “continues to peddle a false narrative concerning the failed drug test of Medina Spirit,” a CDI statement read last year, explaining the decision.

The trainer’s request for an emergency hearing was denied by the Kentucky appeals court judge last month, meaning Baffert-trained Muth, one of the best horses in the country, won’t be allowed to run.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Mystik Dan wins in a dramatic photo finish at 150th Kentucky Derby