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Wednesday, December 6
Friends remember Antley's generosity




ARCADIA, Calif. -- On days when his problems kept him away from the racetrack, jockey Chris Antley never made others pay for his woes.

Trainer Vladimir Cerin told mourners at a memorial service Tuesday about a day Antley didn't ride as scheduled, including two mounts that won races.

Gary Stevens
Jockey Gary Stevens hangs a picture of the late jockey Chris Antley prior to a memorial service Tuesday.
Antley wrote a check to cover his agent's lost commissions, saying, "You did your part, I didn't do mine. You're going to get paid."

That spirit of generosity was recalled by family and friends attending the service at the Church of the Good Shepherd, two blocks from Santa Anita, where Antley starred during his riding career.

Cerin recalled when Antley missed his flight to the Queen Elizabeth Stakes. He chartered a plane and made it to the race just in time to earn a $4,000 commission; the flight cost $17,500.

"I really liked the guy. He had a heart of gold," said Bob Baffert, who trained Squall City, the last winner Antley rode in March at Santa Anita.

The 34-year-old Antley, a two-time Kentucky Derby winner, was found dead at his Pasadena home with severe head trauma Saturday night. Police said they are investigating the death as a homicide.

An autopsy done Tuesday confirmed that Antley sustained head injuries, but it failed to determine a cause of death. Results of routine toxicology and other tests will take 6-to-8 weeks.

A photo of a smiling Antley, wearing a helmet and green and white silks, was placed at the front of the church. Close by was a horseshoe-shaped arrangement of red carnations with a white satin ribbon reading, `Our beloved Antman.' His riding boots, whip and helmet were there, too.

Antley's brother, Brian, and other friends who spoke at the service acknowledged the jockey's well-known battles with drugs, alcohol and depression.

"He helped our family so much," Brian Antley said. "Coming from what you would consider not such a good family _ we had a lot of problems, we had a lot of difficulties _ but Chris always believed that they would work out."

Brian, the jockey's younger brother, was the lone family member present. Antley's wife, Natalie, was in New York. She is due to give birth to a girl in January, the couple's first child.

Brian Antley and Cathy Park, a real estate agent and Antley's friend, discovered the jockey's body when they returned from the airport. Brian had flown in from South Carolina for a visit.

"I know everyone out there appreciates what he did for this industry, but I hope you have all learned that this industry does not prevent death," Brian said.

"Any one of you out there today could have the same emotional problems that my brother had, so every one of you need to make sure that when you have emotional problems, go to your family, go to your friends, and ask for help. It can only help you, it can't hurt you," he said.

Jockey Gary Stevens, a longtime friend, read a message from Antley's father and stepmother, who remained in South Carolina.

"He thought of all of you at the track as his second family. You were his home away from home," the note said. "We know that you are as shocked and saddened as we are about Chris' death."

Stevens recalled how he and Antley would ride motorcycles, play pool and share each other's clothing.

"I consider Chris a brother," he said. "That compassion he showed on the racetrack was the compassion that he showed to everyone that came into contact with him, and that's what I'll remember."

Stevens read an e-mail he received from Natalie Antley, whose job at ABC Sports kept her in New York for most of the couple's seven-month marriage. The message included a poem she sent to Antley last year after they met during the Triple Crown series.

"It was at that time, when after chasing after him all summer, he was finally starting to believe that I was really serious, that I really loved him," her message said. "When he got this, he finally broke down and admitted that he loved me, too. It was our beginning.

"These words can't help Chris anymore, but maybe they can help all of us who are still here, trying to understand why this world can be so painful sometimes."

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