Japan’s hopes of pulling off an unprecedented global Derby treble were cruelly denied when Forever Young was narrowly beaten to third place in a spectacular 150th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on Saturday.

The Japanese-bred son of Real Steel, who won the Saudi Derby and UAE Derby (G2) earlier this year, saw his chances suffer a significant setback when he was bumped by second-placed Sierra Leone in the crucial final two furlongs of the historic race.

Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. had no such worries aboard Mystik Dan who travelled smoothly alongside the inside rail to hold on for the narrowest of victories in the sport – a short nose.

Second-favorite Sierra Leone, the mount of Tyler Gaffalione, got lucky at the line to edge Forever Young and his star Japanese rider Ryusei Sakai also by a nose.

Sakai enjoyed plenty of success in 2023 aboard Bathrat Leon, a multiple group stakes winner in Dubai and Saudi Arabia and made his Kentucky Derby debut in 2023 aboard Coninuar, third in the UAE Derby which was won by fellow Japanese runner Derma Sotogake.

After the finish Hernandez, an American Eclipse Award-winning jockey and trainer Kenneth Peek, had to endure some anxious moments as the judges referred to the photo-finish camera before declaring Mystik Dan as the winner.

"That was the longest two minutes I've ever felt in my life, waiting for them to hang that number up," Hernandez said during an interview on the track. "It was exciting when we hit the wire, but I wasn't sure if we won."

The result appeared to energise the crowd of over 150,000 racegoers who had just witnessed another epic Kentucky Derby.

Luck plays a big part in horse racing and jockey Hernandez said he was fortunate to find a tight gap on the inside rail as the field turned for home which put his horse in the clear.

"My horse, he was so game being up on the inside. I came through a really tight spot, we actually kind of climbed up on top of the rail a little bit," said Hernandez of his dangerous manoeuvre.

"When he shot through that spot he was able to cut the corner and I asked him to go for it. He shot off and I thought, 'Oh man, we have a chance to win the Kentucky Derby.'"

It was an unforgettable weekend for trainer Kenneth McPeek and Hernandez who on Friday had teamed to win the Kentucky Oaks for fillies with Thorpedo Anna.

McPeek became only the fourth trainer to land the prestigious double in the same year after Ben Jones in 1952.

McPeek also hailed Hernandez saying he was "probably one of the most under-rated riders in racing."

"But not anymore - right!" McPeek exalted.

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