ELMONT, N.Y. -- Charismatic's bid for a Triple Crown and his racing career ended yesterday in front of a record crowd at Belmont Park. His life nearly ended as well.
After finishing third in the Belmont Stakes, the final leg of the three-race series for 3-year-olds known as the Triple Crown, Charismatic pulled up suddenly. His jockey Chris Antley jumped off, lost his balance and fell into the dirt. He struggled to his knees and reached for Charismatic's left front leg.
The handsome chestnut colt, a near twin to his great-grandsire Secretariat, had broken two bones in his left front ankle. The injury apparently occurred as Charismatic strained toward the wire, apparently beaten, but trying to hold his position.
Lemon Drop Kid, a colt owned by Marylanders, won the Belmont as one of the largest long shots (29 to 1) in the 131-year history of the race. He paid $61.50 to win. An even larger long shot, the 54-1 Vision and Verse, finished second.
But all eyes focused on Charismatic about a sixteenth of a mile past the finish line. He remained standing as veterinarians rushed to his side, and the track's horse ambulance rumbled toward him down the track.
As Charismatic threw his head up and down in apparent pain, veterinarians fitted his ankle with a temporary cast. Charismatic was led onto the ambulance and transported back to his stall. He walked into the stall under his own power.
After X-rays and observation, veterinarian Larry Bramlage said that Charismatic fractured his cannon and sesamoid bones and that surgery is scheduled for this morning.
"We expect him to be fine as a stallion," Bramlage said. "Unfortunately, this is the end of his racing career."
Bramlage credited Antley, the jockey, for perhaps saving Charismatic's life. If Antley had not stopped the horse and jumped off when he did, Bramlage said, the fracture might have penetrated the skin and become life-threatening.
Antley said he felt Charismatic "let up a little bit" with an eighth of a mile to go in the demanding 1 1/2-mile race.
"Then the horse from the outside [Lemon Drop Kid] came to us and passed us," Antley said. "At that point I rode just enough to hang on for third.
"Heading for the finish line, he suddenly dipped underneath me, and I could tell he was in pain. He gave everything he had and ran as hard as he could, but he couldn't give the people what they wanted."
Tears rolled down Antley's face. The jockey, like the onetime claiming horse, had made a comeback of his own in the Triple Crown series, overcoming depression and weight gain.
The horse's owner, Bob Lewis, also was visibly shaken.
"Our only concern right now is Charismatic," Lewis said. "We hope to God he is going to be fine. We accepted the accolades in Louisville and Baltimore, and today was just one of those things that happens."
After winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Charismatic drew a record 85,818 fans to this majestic track outside New York City as he attempted to become racing's 12th Triple Crown winner and the first since Affirmed in 1978. It was a picture-perfect afternoon, sunny with temperatures in the 70s.
Charismatic's trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, said the horse had shown no sign of injury during his previous 16 races and no hint that anything was wrong before the Belmont. Lukas has trained numerous horses that suffered injuries in big races.
"It's racing. These things happen, and we have to deal with them," Lukas said. "It's not an easy part of the game."
Bramlage supported Lukas' contention that Charismatic had entered the Belmont a sound and healthy horse.
"He loved what he was doing out there today," Bramlage said. "He wanted to run on. This was just an unfortunate accident."
Pub Date: 6/06/99