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Mystik Dan wins the Kentucky Derby by a nose

Sierra Leone, with jockey Tyler Gaffalione, (2), Forever Young, with jockey Ryusei Sakai, and Mystik Dan, with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., cross the finish line at Churchill Downs during the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race Saturday, in Louisville, Ky.
Kiichiro Sato
/
AP
Sierra Leone, with jockey Tyler Gaffalione, (2), Forever Young, with jockey Ryusei Sakai, and Mystik Dan, with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., cross the finish line at Churchill Downs during the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby horse race Saturday, in Louisville, Ky.

Updated May 04, 2024 at 20:34 PM ET

In a close finish, Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby by a horse's nostril over Sierra Leone.

Contenders waited with bated breath in the seconds before the official decision was made. The thoroughbred had entered the race with 18-1 odds — a longshot compared to favorite Fierceness at 3-1 odds.

Mystik Dan's trainer Ken McPeek on Saturday became the first trainer since 1952 to win the Kentucky Oaks and Derby in the same year, according to the NBC broadcast. It was jockey Brian Hernandez's first Derby win. The duo won the Oaks a day earlier with filly Thorpedo Anna on a muddy track.

McPeek praised the jockey for the victory.

"Brian is amazing," he told NBC Sports during the post-race broadcast, "probably one of the most underrated riders in racing — but not anymore, right?"

For Hernandez, winning the Derby is a dream he's had since he was 6 years old.

"This is a lifetime achievement," he said. "To be able to live that dream that — when I was a 6-year-old kid riding my bike around my grandparents' farm, telling them all I was going to the Kentucky Derby one day — and here we are."

Behind Sierra Leone, Forever Young placed third.

The weather behaved on Saturday at the 150th running of the race. The longest-running sporting event in the U.S. was held following changes aiming to clean up the sport.

Multiple scandals have plagued the horse racing industry in recent years, including a sudden uptick in horse deaths and doping allegations. In 2020, more than two dozen people were indicted in a racehorse doping scheme. Last year, Churchill Downs drew increased scrutiny after 12 horses died at the track within a month.

About a year later, multiple investigations have found no pattern connecting those deaths, reported member station Louisville Public Media.

The sport in general is dangerous for horses. Last year, 336 horses died from racing-related injuries, according tothe Jockey Club.

In response to doping and abuse allegations, Congress in 2021 approved the creation of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, which aims to set national standards to regulate the sport.

The federal body put new anti-doping rules into effect at Churchill Downs this year. HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus told LPM this week that the horses have been repeatedly tested.

Copyright 2024 NPR

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Emma Bowman
[Copyright 2024 NPR]