Exclusive: Louisiana’s Brian Hernandez talks Oaks-Derby wins

NEW ORLEANS (WGNO) — Tuesday afternoon, Brian Hernandez was back in Louisiana after a very big weekend. WGNO spoke exclusively with him at the Fair Grounds Race Track where workers were still cleaning up from the Jazz Fest.

“We were supposed to come for the last day of the Jazz Fest, but after winning the Derby, it made it a little tough,” Hernandez said after completing a nearly impossible feat on Friday and Saturday. “It’s been a whirlwind; it’s been fun.”

Saturday’s Kentucky Derby required a photo finish to determine the win, place and show horses. After waiting a few minutes — which seemed like hours, Hernandez said — the #3 horse, Mystic Dan, was officially named the winner.

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“That was agonizing because when we hit the wire, there were three horses across the wire, and you don’t know if you won or not,” Hernandez said.

But that was Hernandez’s second win in as many days. On Friday, he rode filly Torpedo Anna to victory at the Kentucky Oaks. Winning both races back-to-back is extremely rare. It’s happened eight times since the 1800s.

“We’ve been at it for 20 years now. Up until a few days ago, I didn’t think it was possible. Then to turn around and win the Oaks on Friday and the Derby on Saturday, it still hasn’t sunken in,” he said.

The last time a jockey won both races was in 2009 with Calvin Borel. Hernandez grew up in Lafayette. Borel is from neighboring St. Martin Parish.

“He’s been an idol of mine,” Hernandez said. “I watched his three Derby wins.”

But Hernandez did more than watch; he took notes. When he was studying the field for Saturday’s race, he also looked at video of Borel’s approach to the Derby.

“We mimicked one of his trips on Saturday. And that kind of helped us work out the trip we ended up with Mystic Dan,” he said. “We’ve had so many great jockeys come out of south Louisiana.”

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While Saturday was Hernandez’s first Derby win, it wasn’t his first race. In 2016 he rode one of two of Saints owner Tom Benson’s horses. After his win over the weekend, Benson’s widow, Gayle Benson, was among the first people to reach out. “It was such an honor to hear from her again. It was great.”

Hernandez and his wife now live in Kentucky, but they also have a home near the Fair Grounds, which is also where Mystic Dan trained over the winter. Right now, he’s waiting to hear from the horse’s trainer, Kenny McPeek, on whether the horse will run in the Preakness in just over 10 days or wait until the Belmont Stakes on June 8.

As for his victory lap in Louisiana, Hernandez is scheduled to go to the Governor’s Mansion later this week.

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