ESPN Films: Charismatic
In June of 1999 an unlikely chestnut colt named Charismatic, with jockey Chris Antley aboard, headed down the stretch at the Belmont Stakes, just seconds away from becoming the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 21 years. Thoroughbred racing was desperate for this story of deliverance -- track attendance was in steep decline, starts like Seattle Slew and Secretariat were distant memories, drug abuse and bulimia were becoming issues in the jockey colony, and ...
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"Charismatic," airs Oct. 18 at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
There are very few places where the human spirit is more visible to the masses than it is when played out on the fields of sport. Some of our most stirring moments have come at the hands of unlikely heroes driven to triumphant heights while battling the fires of competition. Most of those moments conclude with a win or a loss, but once every generation or two an event unfolds that transcends competition and speaks simply to the greatness of which humans are capable. That is what drew us to the improbable journey of a jockey named Chris Antley and a horse named Charismatic.
In 1998, Antley was a washed-up, anorexic, recovering drug addict. He was out of racing and on a downward spiral that threatened his very life. The horse-racing community had left him behind as had almost everyone else he knew. But Chris, in a moment of inspiration, decided to fight back and mount one of the most unlikely comebacks in sports history. He would need an ally and found one in renowned trainer, D. Wayne Lukas.
For all of his brilliance, Lukas had reached every milestone in the sport except the elusive Triple Crown. Lukas saw in Antley a forgotten little man with the passion of a young rider on the make. Lukas paired Antley with a chestnut colt named Charismatic, the biggest longshot in 60 years to win the Kentucky Derby. Having also won the Preakness, only the Belmont stood between Lukas and the Triple Crown.
Chris Antley and Charismatic had the lead heading down the stretch at the 1999 Belmont Stakes. With a quarter of mile to go, Charismatic looked like the first Triple Crown winner in nearly 20 years. But at the eighth pole something broke. Antley knew it immediately and made a seemingly unthinkable choice. He eased up and gently coaxed the injured colt across the line having sacrificed the triple crown and ultimately his career. Moments later, Chris Antley sat in the dirt cradling Charismatic's foreleg in full view of 125,000 fans. Antley's actions saved the horse's life.
Lukas blamed Antley for the horse's loss and decried the "canonization" of the jockey by the press for saving the horse's life. Eighteen months later, Antley would be dead from a drug overdose, but not before showing the world his true greatness. -- Steve Michaels
- • Charismatic
-- ESPN: 9 p.m.
- • Charismatic
-- ESPN: 10 p.m.
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