Mystik Dan Gives McPeek, Hernandez Kentucky Double

May 4, 2024

It’s Mystik Dan by a nose over Sierra Leone in the $5 Million Kentucky Derby before crowd of 156,710. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

Churchill Downs Media 

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – 4 G Racing, Lance Gasaway, Daniel Hamby III and Valley View Farm’s Mystik Dan, under a ground-saving trip from Brian Hernandez Jr., held off the late charges of Sierra Leone and Forever Young (JPN) to win the 150th running of the $5 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) before a crowd of 156,710.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, Mystik Dan completed the mile and a quarter over a fast track in 2:03.34. The most recent time the Derby was decided by a nose was in 1996 when Grindstone edged Cavonnier. It was the closest three-horse photo finish since 1947 when Jet Pilot finished a head in front of Phalanx, who was another head ahead of Faultless.

First three-horse photo finish since Jet Pilot, Phalanx and Faultless in 1947.

It is the first Kentucky Derby victory for Hernandez and McPeek, who teamed to win the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) on Friday with Thorpedo Anna.

It is the first time since 1952 that a trainer has swept both races in the same year. That was Ben Jones with Real Delight in the Oaks and Hill Gail in the Derby.

It also is the first time since 2009 that a rider has won both races on the same weekend. That was Calvin Borel with Rachel Alexandra in the Oaks and Mine That Bird in the Derby.

Track Phantom and Just Steel led the field through fractions of :22.97 and :46.63 with favored Fierceness racing three wide just off the leaders. The top three remained unchanged as the leaders completed six furlongs in 1:11.31 and a mile in 1:37.46.

At the top of the stretch, the whole complexion changed.

Track Phantom drifted off the rail opening a hole that Hernandez sent Mystik Dan through and quickly opened up a daylight advantage on the field.

To his outside, Sierra Leone and Forever Young were on the move, six- and seven-wide respectively.

As Mystik Dan maintained a straight course along the rail, Sierra Leone and Forever Young were exchanging bumps in the middle of the track as they closed in only to come up just short at the wire.

The victory was worth $3.1 million and increased Mystik Dan’s career earnings to $3,741,360 with a record of 7-3-1-1.

Mystik Dan is a Kentucky-bred son of Goldencents out of the Colonel John mare Ma’am. He was bred by 4 G Racing, Gasaway and Hamby.

Mystik Dan paid $39.22, $16.32 and $10. Sierra Leone returned $6.54 and $4.64 with Forever Young returning $5.58 to show.

Completing the order of finish were Catching FreedomT O Password (JPN), ResilienceStrongholdHonor Marie, EndlesslyDornoch, Track Phantom, West SaratogaDomestic ProductEpic Ride, Fierceness, Society Man, Just Steel, Grand Mo the FirstCatalytic and Just a Touch.

Jockey, Trainer Quotes From The 2024 Kentucky Derby

Brian Hernandez Jr., Jockey, Mystik Dan, winner: “It still hasn’t sunk in, it’s so unbelievable. 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. That’s the nice thing about Kenny (McPeek), he lets me make those decisions. We had the right kind of horse to give him that kind of trip.” 

Brian Hernandez and th Mystic Dan team head to the winner's circle. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)
Brian Hernandez and th Mystic Dan team head to the winner’s circle. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

Kenny McPeek, Trainer, Mystik Dan, winner: “For three weeks, I’ve felt like we were going to win both races. 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.”

Trainer Kenny McPeek and family celebrate Mystic Dan's victory. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)
Trainer Kenny McPeek and family celebrate Mystic Dan’s victory. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)
Brian Hernandez and Mystic Dan carry the garland of roses. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)
Brian Hernandez and Mystic Dan carry the garland of roses. (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

Tyler Gaffalione, Jockey, Sierra Leone, runner-up: “Everything was going to plan as the horse got into a good rhythm on the first turn as we were able to save ground. I got into a nice position and followed Forever Young, and he started to make a good move. I decided to follow him and coming into the stretch, I felt like I had plenty of horse. He wanted to lean in today and made it a little difficult. I had a hard time keeping him straight and that definitely cost us. He gives you everything, very responsive but he loses concentration.”

Chad Brown, Trainer, Sierra Leone, runner-up: “You get beat a nose in the Kentucky Derby, it’s a tough one. But he’s a tremendous horse, nearly undefeated. I’m just so lucky to have him, so proud of his effort today. He did what we asked him to do, just came up a little bit short. (I didn’t think I won) watching it live, but then when they started showing the slo mo, I thought maybe this could be a dead heat because I got a great bob. I just wasn’t in front. I got a great bob actually, but it’s tough to know which angles the TV actually has. But it didn’t feel good when they started to show the 3 horse on the pan shot on the TV. It’s just so hard to get here, so many things have to go right, and you have to have the right horse. It’s disappointing the result but I’m so proud of the horse. He ran his race. When you have a deep closer like that, you have to go through some traffic and go wide. I’ll have to look at his trip a little bit closer. But it doesn’t really matter, he got beat a nose.”

Flavien Prat, Jockey, Catching Freedom, fourth: “I was traveling well and had a chance to cut every corner and save all the ground. I was behind the winner turning for home and had a good run.”

Brad Cox, Trainer, Catching Freedom, fourth: “Overall I was very happy with Catching Freedom’s effort, I really was and the ride Flavien (Prat) gave him. We’ll regroup, not sure where we’ll land.”

Kazushi Kimura, Jockey, T O Password, fifth: “He didn’t break well. This was his third time running and he was in a new country. He probably wasn’t 100 percent mature. Today he finished up strong. I hope the horse can stay for the Preakness.”

Junior Alvarado, Jockey, Resilience, sixth: “He ran great. I had a great trip and turning for home I thought I had a chance. He ran great.”

Bill Mott, Trainer, Resilience, sixth: “Beautiful trip. When he turned for home, he gave him a good kick. He looked like a winner coming off the turn and just couldn’t go on. Maybe that extra eighth of a mile made a difference.”

Antonio Fresu, Jockey, Stronghold, seventh: “I had a beautiful race all the way around. I was very relaxed all the way and then in the stretch when I tried to make a move, he went for a little bit, he got discouraged but didn’t show up in the last part.”

Ben Curtis, Jockey, Honor Marie, eighth: “My race was over coming out of the gate. I got speared from both sides, I lost an iron and had to put it back in. He was nearly down on his head, but I gave him time to pick himself up. He didn’t get the smoothest first quarter of a mile and I just let him float around a bit after that. Then I took to the inside because I didn’t want to give away any more ground. He paid for the early exertion, but he ran a credible race.”

Umberto Rispoli, Jockey, Endlessly, ninth: “This was his first time on the dirt, and he got a lot of kick back in his face. He actually handled it pretty well. Just before the quarter-pole I was trying to follow Sierra Leone but I got in a little traffic. I think he’s a horse that needs to be clear. He ran hard down the lane.”

Michael McCarthy, Trainer, Endlessly, ninth: “He got away from there OK. But the way he runs from the back wasn’t good today. We were concerned about him taking too much dirt in the face, but maybe we shouldn’t have been. He ran ninth and I am happy for him.”

Luis Saez, Jockey, Dornoch, 10th: “He had a really rough trip. Everyone came down on me leaving the gate even after he jumped well. It was just a tough position.”

Danny Gargan, Trainer, Dornoch, 10th: “He had a very bad trip. He was eliminated early. He got very tired. I’m disappointed in the way he ran today.”

Joel Rosario, Jockey, Track Phantom, 11th: “I was on the lead for a while. He ran his race, but we couldn’t hang in there. He did his best.” 

Jesus Castanon, Jockey, West Saratoga, 12th: “I have no complaints. I was in a good spot early with him but when I got to the half-mile pole, I felt like my horse wasn’t picking up the bridle. He gave me a little run late, but it wasn’t his best.”

Irad Ortiz Jr., Jockey, Domestic Product, 13th: “I was very disappointed. We missed the first jump out of the gate, stumbled a little bit. After that, I tried to slow him down and he was fighting me. I was trying get the best out of him and it didn’t work out.” 

Adam Beschizza, Jockey, Epic Ride, 14th: “I broke super sharp from the outside post. It was probably a little too fast for the opening quarter-mile. I was a little too aggressive going past the wire. It was a rough, busy race. I was able to keep it uninterrupted for the most for him. It’s just probably a bit too far.”

John Ennis, Trainer, Epic Ride, 14th: “He ran good. He probably didn’t want to run a mile and a quarter. That’s too far for him.

John Velazquez, Jockey, Fierceness, 15th: “His first jump was not very good. His second and third jump he was OK. He got pretty aggressive since I had to give him a nudge out of there. The horses on the outside put the pressure on and then he got into the bridle. I tried to keep him as settled as much without letting doing too much but he was already engaged. When I let him go, he just didn’t have it.”

Todd Pletcher, Trainer, Fierceness, 15th: “Johnny (Velazquez) said he hopped a little at the start. Then he got wound up in all the company around him trying to make the lead. He couldn’t shake loose like he did in Florida. Just one of those races.”

Frankie Dettori, Jockey, Society Man, 16th: “It was a great atmosphere. My horse tried but he’s probably not at this level. I enjoyed myself, absorbed all the atmosphere and really enjoyed it.”

Danny Gargan, Trainer, Society Man, 16th: “He had a nice trip. He tried hard and that’s the way it goes.”

Keith Asmussen, Jockey, Just Steel, 17th: “I got squeezed a little bit leaving the gate. He was a little aggressive down the frontside for the first time but relaxed beautifully up the backside. I think the world of the horse still. I thought he was in the position to win but just couldn’t get it done today.”

Wayne Lukas, Trainer, Just Steel, 17th: “I thought he ran OK. But he got roughed up leaving there and that :22, :46 did not help at all.”

Jose Ortiz, Jockey Catalytic, 19th: “I broke very cleanly. I was very happy with my trip to the first turn, and it was what I was looking for. I was following Brian (Hernandez) on the backside and when we hit the half-mile pole, I couldn’t keep up.”

Florent Geroux, Jockey, Just a Touch, 20th: “I was in the middle, got bounced around a lot from both sides. From there, my horse was very keen, a little relaxed and when it was time to go, he wasn’t there for me. He used a lot of energy early.”

Brad Cox, Trainer, Just a Touch, 20th: “He got bounced around at the start and his race was kind of over after an eighth of a mile, looked like to me and Florent (Geroux) kind of agreed. Overall, I was very happy with Catching Freedom’s effort, I really was and the ride Flavien (Prat) gave him. We’ll regroup, not sure where we’ll land.”

@jonathanstettin u should really do a 2 minute Past The Wire recorded segment for @Steve_Byk Monday Morning. Very grounded, excellent stuff

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