Favorite Fierceness Falls Flat, 18-1 Mystik Dan Wins Kentucky Derby

The Kentucky Derby is called the most exciting two minutes in sports, and this Saturday’s race absolutely delivered on that moniker.

In a three-horse photo finish, Mystick Dan, at 18-1, was the winner by the tiniest of noses. He held off a late charge by one of the pre-race favorites, Sierra Leone, and Japanese horse Forever Young.

This was the 10th photo finish in Kentucky Derby history, and the only one that involved three horses. In 1947 Jet Pilot won and Phalanx finished second, a head over Faultless. Until Saturday, that was the closest three-horse finish in the 150 years of the Kentucky Derby.

As mentioned in our Derby preview, Fierceness was the best horse in the field. But when he has lost, he has lost badly. That trend continued on Saturday. Fierceness, off at 3-1, finished in 15th place, 24 ¼ lengths behind the winner.

Fierceness was actually in third place with four furlongs to go, but he faded badly down the stretch.

For Mystik Dan trainer Kenny McPeek, this was his first win at the Kentucky Derby in 40 years as a trainer.

“The post position helped us a lot, the inside draw [post 3],” McPeek said. “But Brian just did an amazing job. Just a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant jockey and ride.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. was the winning jockey, and with more than 2,500 victories in his 21-year career, he has his first win at the Kentucky Derby.

“I don’t know how long it’s going to take to sink in. It’s definitely a surreal moment.”

Hernandez decided to keep Mystik Dan on the rail – a decision that almost proved costly when he bumped his boot against the rail. But Hernandez joked, “I can buy another pair of boots”

After crossing the finish line, Hernandez knew he had raced well, but wasn’t sure if it was enough. “I’m like, woo, I think we just won the Kentucky Derby. But then those horses, they were so far out there, you couldn’t really see them. And then they surged so quickly.

“I was like, ‘Oh man, I hope we won. I hope we won.’ And then when they hung up our number, it was just instant relief.”

Kentucky Derby Payouts

Mystik Dan

Win $39.22, Place $16.32, Show $10.00

Sierra Leone

Place $6.54, Show $4.64

Forever Young

Show $5.58

The $2.00 Exacta paid $258.56 and the $1.00 Trifecta paid $1,113.84.

The win by Mystik Dan was worth $3.1 million to the ownership group of Lance Gasaway, Brent Gasaway, and Daniel Hamby.

A Look Ahead to the Preakness

The horse racing world now turns its attention to the Preakness in two weeks. Mystik Dan and Kenny McPeek have yet to do the same.

“We’re not committed to the Preakness. No, not yet,” McPeek said the morning after the Derby win. “We’ll just watch him over the next week. It will be one of those where we’ll probably take [the decision] up to the last minute. We’ll let him tell us. If he’s not in the feed tub, he won’t run.”

The Preakness is May 18 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.

“If we go into the [Preakness] we want to win,” said co-owner Lance Gasaway. “You take those horses in there at full speed that have been off a month or a month and a half, and we’re coming on there in two weeks. That’s a big ask of this horse.”

One of the horses that Gasaway is referring to is Muth, the horse trained by Bob Baffert that was not allowed to run at the Kentucky Derby. Baffert’s suspension was by Churchill Downs. He is eligible to have horses at Pimlico, and Muth has been confirmed to be in the Preakness field. Baffert might also have a second horse there in Imagination.

Baffert has won the Preakness eight times.

The Preakness Future Wager Pool locked at the start of the Kentucky Derby, with Muth as the 7-2 favorite. Fierceness was next at 9-2, Sierra Leone was 8-1, and Imagination was 17-1. Mystik Dan closed at 45-1, and those odds will shrink considerably if he does, in fact, join the Preakness field. The Preakness is limited to 14 horses.

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