Charismatic’s story, like so many in horse racing, is comprised of equal parts triumph and disaster. A seemingly average claimer as a 2-year-old, the big chestnut colt exploded onto the thoroughbred stage as a 3-year-old, winning the Grade III Lexington Stakes in record time just weeks before the 1999 Kentucky Derby. His relatively narrow victories over the strong Menifee (ridden by Pat Day) in both the Derby and the Preakness set the stage for a dramatic showdown at Belmont, with turf writers invariably invoking the storied Affirmed-Alydar rivalry of 20 years earlier.
Adding even more drama to the narrative was Charismatic’s jockey, Chris Antley: a fearless rider, Antley fought drug and alcohol dependency, as well as depression, for much of his brief life. The ninth-grade dropout won the Derby twice; he also made a name for himself as something of a stock-market whiz, authoring a tips and analysis newsletter called “The Antman Report.” The brilliant but highly erratic Antley and the gritty Charismatic made for a great Triple Crown tale — until the narrative came undone during the Belmont’s final furlong, when Charismatic broke his left front leg in several places. Antley famously reined in his injured mount, leapt from the saddle and cradled Charismatic’s shattered leg, leaning against the colt, soothing him, until Charismatic could be carted off. Many track-watchers credit Antley’s quick thinking and preternatural calm in the midst of what could have been a chaotic scene with saving Charismatic’s life. Today, Charismatic is at stud in Japan. Antley died in his Pasadena home in December 2000 of blunt force trauma likely caused by a fall during a drug overdose. He was 34.
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