It was a picture-perfect finish for Mystik Dan in the 150th running of the Kentucky Derby.

As far as dramatic endings go, Saturday’s edition of the $5 million, Grade 1 classic at Churchill Downs was one for the horse racing ages.

Sent on his way at 18-1, Mystik Dan, trained by Kenny McPeek and ridden by Brian Hernandez Jr., used a rail-skimming trip to separate himself from the pack in early stretch.

Mid-way down the lane, his lead began to dwindle as the hard-charging duo of Sierra Leone and Forever Young (JPN) came calling and took aim at the frontrunner.

The crescendo from the crowd of 156,710 – the most since 157,813 watched Justify win in 2018 – grew louder with each stride in the final yards of the 1 ¼-mile race.

Hernandez, in search of his first Derby Crown, implored Mystik Dan to hold on, while Sierra Leone, second choice on the tote board, and Forever Young, the betting public’s third choice, enveloped the leader at the finish line.

Cue the photo finish in the richest Derby ever run.

After a few anxious moments for the connections of the top-flight trio, Mystik Dan was declared the winner by a nose. Sierra Leone finished another nose ahead of Forever Young.

Fierceness, the race favorite, finished 15th of 20.

The Todd Pletcher trainee came into the Run for the Roses as the clear pre-race favorite after a Florida Derby win by 13 ½ lengths. He also took last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile by 6 ¼ lengths.

The final time for the Derby was 2:03.34.

Mystik Dan’s victory also delivered a career Triple Crown to McPeek.

McPeek trained filly Swiss Skyliner, the 2020 Preakness States champion, and Sarava, the longshot winner of the 2002 Belmont Stakes.

“I mean, just a brilliant, brilliant, brilliant jockey and ride,” McPeek told NBC Sports, after the Derby. “Brian’s amazing. Probably one of the most underrated riders in racing. But not anymore.”

“This is unbelievable,” Hernandez said, while still in the saddle. “That was the longest few minutes I’ve ever felt in my life, waiting for them to hang that number up … It’s hard to put into words.”

Mystik Dan, third in the Arkansas Derby and winner of the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes,

paid $39.22 for the win.

The Kentucky-bred son of Goldencents-Ma’am is owned by Lance Gasaway, 4 G Racing, LLC, Daniel Hamby III, and Valley View Farm LLC.

Mystik Dan, now 3-1-1 from seven starts, will continue his Triple Crown quest on May 18th with the 149th running of the Preakness Stakes in Baltimore.