Goldencents's Mystik Dan Completes Oaks/Derby Sweep For McPeek, Hernandez, Jr.

Mystik Dan wins Derby 150 | Horsephotos

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LOUISVILLE, KY — Trainer Ken McPeek told anyone who would listen after Friday's GI Kentucky Oaks victory with Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna) that his GI Kentucky Derby aspirant, Mystik Dan (Goldencents), could very well jump up and win, too. It seemed a bit far fetched given the last time a trainer had won the Kentucky Derby and Oaks in the same year was back in 1952 when Ben Jones accomplished the feat with Real Delight and Hill Gail. Defying the odds, and history, the Kentucky horseman completed the double Saturday when the Kentucky-bred colt nosed out 9-2 second choice Sierra Leone (Gun Runner) by a whisker.

“For three weeks, I felt like we were going to win both races. I can't tell you why,” said McPeek, who recorded his previous best finish in the Derby with Tejano Run in 1995. “Both horses have been so easy to deal with. The team has done such a great job every day.”

He continued, “There's been no drama. [Co-owners] Lance and Sharilyn [Gasaway] have been wonderful people to have involved here. They came in and decided to absorb it all and enjoy it. I just believe in mojo. I believe in positive energy. And we had a lot of that. And, you know, we had two really, really good horses. Brian [Hernandez] did an amazing job today. Just really honored and proud to be here.”

Also making history, Hernandez snagged the double, the first since Calvin Borel accomplished the feat in 2009 with Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird.

“It still hasn't sunk in. It's unbelievable,” gushed Hernandez. “We came into the weekend thinking we had good chances, really big chances, both Friday and Saturday. And then to just have the horses pull it off for us, we really have to thank all the guys back in the barn. They put so much work into this to have these horses ready on days like today and yesterday. It's like I said, I don't know how long it's going to take to sink in, but it's definitely a surreal moment right now.”

Going According to Script

Derby Day began shrouded in gloom and humidity, admittedly not very fan (and hair) friendly. However, despite some suspect moments early on, the sun eventually came out, giving the Derby day crowd a glorious canvas for the Triple Crown's first jewel. In the paddock, Mystik Dan–labeled an Old Soul by McPeek–remained calm, cool and collected throughout the process and on the way to the gate.

Breaking from post three at odds of 18-1, Mystik Dan had enough speed to get himself into contention, hovering a few lengths off the pace as Track Phantom (Quality Road), Just Steel (Justify) and Epic Ride (Blame) rushed up to lead heading into the first turn. Meanwhile, 3-1 choice Fierceness (City of Light) broke crisply from the 17 slot, and joined the leading flank with relative ease, getting the first call with an opening quarter in :22.97 three wide off the rail. Track Phantom soon assumed control over Just Steel and Fierceness through a half in :46.63 as Mystik Dan continued to survey the pace in a rail-skimming fourth, just a couple of lengths behind the pace. Track Phantom remained in front as Just Steel retreated and Fierceness began to pick up the tempo up front.

Meanwhile, Sierra Leone, who had been camped out near the back, began to pick up horses quickly approaching the quarter pole and the Japanese invader Forever Young (Jpn) (Real Steel {Jpn}), installed the 7-1 third choice, hooked onto the $2.3 million purchase's flank and followed him into the stretch. Itching for his cue from Hernandez, Mystik Dan found a sliver of daylight inside, and scraped his way through and cut the corner like a seasoned pro as Fierceness started to look leg weary. Far on the outside, Sierra Leone continued to close despite repeatedly bouncing off the oncoming Forever Young, who was mounting a challenge of his own. Mystik Dan sprinted away, getting the jump on his rivals by three to four lengths, and giving the closers all they could handle to catch up. The late leader finally started to feel the burn in deep stretch, while the duo of Sierra Leone and Forever Young continued to gobble up real-estate. Despite their best efforts, Mystik Dan had just enough left to get his nose in front of Sierra Leone with the Forever Young another nostril back in third. Catching Freedom (Constitution), another stone-cold closer, was 1 3/4 lengths back in fourth while the 'other' Japanese horse, T O Password (Jpn) (Copano Rickey {Jpn}), was  4 3/4 lengths adrift in fifth. Fierceness faded in the stretch to finish 15th.

“Mystik Dan went through [a tight spot] with no problem,” said Hernandez. “So once I went through that spot, I was like, okay, now I know he's going to go through tight spots…they went :46.3 in front of us. But my horse was just cruising along so nicely and so comfortable, it never felt like we were going that quickly. Once we got to the second turn, everybody outside of Track Phantom started piling up. I had a nice little pocket there. I was like, 'we will just sit here and let them pile up'. Once Track Phantom just kind of moved off the rail just half a step, we were able to kind of get through there. We might have took out a little bit of the inside fence, but that's okay.”

Asked what the key to victory was?

“Once he cut the corner, he got a little separation on the closers that were forced to kind of go around the horses that were tiring, and he was able to hold them off,” he said.

According to Hernandez, it may have seemed to spectators that he had won his very first Kentucky Derby, however, it wasn't nearly as obvious to him.

“When we got to the 1/8 pole and he was still running, I just kind of had my head down riding and three jumps before the wire, I didn't see them at all,” he explained. “And then right at the wire, they surged late, and I was like, 'Oh, God, did we win the Kentucky Derby?' And I was asking the outrider that, and he said he thought we won but they haven't said it officially yet.”

“It took about two minutes, and then finally when they said, Yeah, you've just won the Kentucky Derby. That was the longest two minutes in sports–from the fastest two minutes to the longest, by far,” he quipped.

Of the beaten GI Blue Grass S. winner, a visibly emotional Brown said, “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.”

As for the beaten favorite, trainer Todd Pletcher said, “[John] Velazquez said he hopped a little at the start. Then got wound up in all the company around him trying to make the lead. He couldn't shake loose like he did [in the Florida Derby]. Just one of those races.”

Timing is Everything

Campaigned by breeders 4 G Racing, Lance Gasaway, Daniel Hamby III in addition to Valley View Farm, Mystik Dan was runner up first time out at Keeneland last October but rebounded in style, winning by 7 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs Nov. 12. Fifth against allowance foes stretching to a mile Nov. 25, he was given a month off and resurfaced with a fifth in the Smarty Jones S. at Oaklawn Jan. 1. Locked and loaded for a muddy renewal of the Feb. 3 GIII Southwest S., he ran away to win by eight lengths over Just Steel before rounding out his Derby preparation with a third behind Muth and Just Steel in the GI Arkansas Derby Mar. 30.

“The backstory on that is I ran this colt back too quick in November,” admitted McPeek. “He won really easy in his maiden race and I wanted to stretch him out and it was the end of the season. I ran him back in an allowance race going a mile, and he coughed up a lung infection on me. Learned a little lesson there with him. I feel like if a horse is doing good and we can win a race, let's give him a run. That one backfired.”

He continued, “So we were a little bit behind the eight ball, because we had to get him over the lung infection. We brought him back in the Smarty Jones, and he got a little tired in that race, because we were one work shy and we didn't have him completely ready… We came back up for the Southwest and he ran huge that day.”

According to McPeek, the goal was to run the horse back in the Feb. 24 GII Rebel S. at Oaklawn, but rescheduling cause those plans to be thrown out.

“They shifted the schedule on us because of the weather. And when they shifted the schedule, we were going to have to come back in three weeks to run in the Rebel. Lance [Gasaway] and I talked about it. We both agreed: Let's skip the Rebel. We will put all our eggs in the GI Arkansas Derby basket. We got to get points that day.”

“We felt like if we did that, we would have a really fresh horse for the Kentucky Derby. And so we actually wanted to win the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby. But, you know, you can't get greedy, right?”

With this weekend's Derby score, McPeek has now collected all three Triple Crown races, having also won the GI Preakness S. with Swiss Skydiver in 2020 and the GI Belmont S. with Sarava in 2002. Does that mean a trip to the Hall of Fame might be in the offing?

“It gives me goosebumps,” an emotional McPeek said. “A lot of [the people in the Hall of Fame] are friends of mine, Allen Jerkens and Wayne Lukas. I could give you a long list of them. I have ridden a lot of them. Pat Day is among them. I could go on and on.”

He continued, “When you work around horsemen that I have worked around and you idolize them, you try to emulate them. You learn to pay attention. One of them would be Carl Nafzger, not only a great trainer, a wonderful human. Yeah, it gives me goosebumps.”

 

Pedigree Notes:

Spendthrift Farm's Goldencents initially helped put his super sire, Into Mischief, on the map. Now, the two-time Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner has shown he can hold his own at stud as the first son of Into Mischief to sire a Derby winner. In addition to Mystik Dan, Goldencents has another 26 black-type winners. A half-dozen of those additional 26 are also graded winners, including Going to Vegas, a dual winner at the highest level going 1 1/4 miles on the lawn. Three Grade I wins at 10 furlongs as a sire–including the biggest of all, the Kentucky Derby–are a tremendous checkmark in the versatility department for a stallion whose progeny's average winning distance at Derby post time was 6.39 furlongs.

Goldencents was 17th in Orb's 2013 Derby after winning that year's GI Santa Anita Derby, while Mystik Dan's damsire, Colonel John, was sixth in Big Brown's 2008 Derby after also winning that year's Santa Anita Derby. Colonel John, a former WinStar stallion, was purchased by the Korea Thoroughbred Breeders Association in advance of the 2017 breeding season. His daughters have produced 10 stakes winners to date. Mystik Dan is the second of Goldencents's seven graded winners out of a Tiznow-line mare, as his millionaire MGSW & GISP son Mr. Money is bred on the same cross.

Mystik Dan's dam, Ma'am, was bred by the late Lucy Bassett, wife of long-time Keeneland President and Chairman James “Ted” Bassett III. Now 102 and retired, Bassett remains a Trustee Emeritus for Keeneland. Mystik Dan's connections bought Ma'am in a private transaction after she was a $9,500 RNA at the 2014 Keeneland September sale. They originally campaigned her with McPeek until moving her to Brad Cox for her final six starts. She is out of a winning full-sister to 2001 GI Hollywood Futurity and GII Lane's End Breeders' Futurity winner Siphonic (Siphon {Brz}), while the extended family includes GISW Laragh (Tapit), MGSW & MGISP Summer Front (War Front), and MGSW & GISP Dixie Dot Com (Dixie Brass).

The Derby winner is Ma'am first foal. She also has a 2-year-old Unified filly named Yes Ma'am and a yearling Knicks Go filly named Ford's Ma'am, all for the same connections. She was bred to Wells Bayou, winner of the 2020 GII Louisiana Derby and part-owned by the Gasaways, for this term. –Jill Williams

Saturday, Churchill Downs
KENTUCKY DERBY PRESENTED BY WOODFORD RESERVE-GI, $5,000,000, Churchill Downs, 5-4, 3yo, 1 1/4m, 2:03.34, ft.
1–MYSTIK DAN, 126, c, 3, by Goldencents
                1st Dam: Ma'am, by Colonel John
                2nd Dam: Lady Siphonica, by Siphon (Brz)
                3rd Dam: Cherokee Crossing, by Cherokee Colony
1ST GRADE I WIN. O-Lance Gasaway, 4 G Racing, LLC, Daniel
Hamby III and Valley View Farm LLC; B-Lance Gasaway, Daniel
Hamby & 4G Racing LLC (KY); T-Kenneth G. McPeek; J-Brian
Joseph Hernandez, Jr. $3,100,000. Lifetime Record: 7-3-1-1,
$3,741,360. Werk Nick Rating: A+++. *Triple Plus*
Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
Click for the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree.
2–Sierra Leone, 126, c, 3, Gun Runner–Heavenly Love,
by Malibu Moon. 'TDN Rising Star'. ($2,300,000 Ylg '22
FTSAUG). O-Peter M. Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael
Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg and Brook T. Smith; B-Debby
Oxley (KY); T-Chad C. Brown. $1,000,000.
3–Forever Young (Jpn), 126, c, 3, Real Steel (Jpn)–Forever
Darling, by Congrats. 1ST G1 BLACK TYPE. (¥98,000,000 Ylg '22
JRHAYF). O-Susumu Fujita; B-Northern Racing (JPN); T-Yoshito
Yahagi. $500,000.
Margins: NO, NO, 1 3/4. Odds: 18.61, 4.79, 7.03.
Also Ran: Catching Freedom, T O Password (Jpn), Resilience, Stronghold, Honor Marie, Endlessly, Dornoch, Track Phantom, West Saratoga, Domestic Product, Epic Ride, Fierceness, Society Man, Just Steel, Grand Mo the First, Catalytic, Just a Touch. Scratched: Encino, Mugatu.
Click for the Equibase.com chart and the TJCIS.com PPs. VIDEO, sponsored by FanDuel TV.

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