Lukas disputes Antley's 'bond' with Charismatic
By Bob Ehalt
Daily Racing Form
ELMONT, N.Y. -- D. Wayne Lukas can remember the sight of jockey Chris Antley cradling Charismatic's leg after Bob and Beverly Lewis's 3-year-old suffered a career-ending injury in the 1999 Belmont Stakes. But for Lukas, who trained the '99 Derby and Preakness winner, memories of that poignant moment have been jaded by a belief that the much celebrated bond between Antley, who died last December, and Charismatic was non-existent.
"I don't think [Antley and Charismatic] bonded," Lukas said Friday morning. "I know I bonded with the horse, but I don't think he ever bonded."
The Hall of Fame trainer's words came hours before Antley was memorialized during the Belmont Stakes parade in Garden City, N.Y. Antley, whose life was marred by drug problems before and after his 1999 Triple Crown wins, died on Dec. 2, 2000 at the age of 34 due to what was determined by the Los Angeles County coroner's office to be accidental head injuries.
Lukas disputed the notion that Antley was close to the horse, saying Antley had no contact with him or Charismatic in the days following the horse's injury.
"I'm not saying it was insincere," Lukas said about Antley's holding of Charismatic's leg in the air, which was credited with helping to save the horse's life. "Maybe it was an emotional response. It may have been sincere in that second, but it wasn't carried very far after that.
"We had a press conference outside our barn and if you tearfully tell the media that you saved this horse and he was your only concern wouldn't you then walk 20 feet to his stall and see if he was dying or was going to make it? Most people would. But he turned, got in a limo and left."
Lukas said that in the days following the Belmont, Antley never called him to check on Charismatic's condition and the two never spoke again.
"The last words I ever said to Chris were when I gave him a leg up [in the Belmont]," Lukas said.
Ron Anderson, who was Antley's agent in 1999, said, "I don't know why Wayne chose to dredge this up.
"Chris passed away and I tend to want to talk about the positive things, " added Anderson, who now works as Jerry Bailey's agent.
A lack of communication with Antley was nothing new, Lukas said, claiming that Antley did not have any contact with him in the days between Charismatic's victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. All of which prompted Lukas to consider a rider switch for the Belmont "I would not have let Antley ride Charismatic in the Belmont," Lukas said.
"I'll bet I said it 50 times that we need to make a rider switch. I thought he wasn't focused. He had no interest in the horse. The "Black Beauty" story the media wrote was [explicative]. He didn't know what color the horse was.
"From the time he won the Derby, the next time he spoke to me was when we saddled the horse at the Preakness. I told him he had to meet me at 3 o'clock the Friday before the Belmont or I would take him off the horse. I would think a guy going for a $5 million bonus, $500,000 of which was his, would call up and see how [the horse] is doing. Is the horse alive and well, sleeping well, eating well, anything."
In the end, Lukas said he kept Antley on Charismatic because the lack of communication had not hindered the horse in his two previous Triple Crown races.
"The general undercurrent from all of the people involved was that it was going to be a tough call," Lukas said. "There was a lot of dialogue on that.
We finally decided that he didn't make any mistakes on the horse and the bottom line was that he wasn't involved in the first two races so what difference could it make in the third one."
The rift with Antley so disturbed Lukas that he failed to praise the jockey's work aboard the colt.
"I was interviewed by [the ABC news magazine] 20-20 before the Belmont and they were looking for me to talk about that 'Black Beauty' story," Lukas said. "After three minutes, they took the microphone off me."
Lukas added he had refrained speaking about Antley in past for fears of "disparaging" him.
"We had a great ride together. It was a chapter in Chris's life his family could look back on pride with," Lukas said. "We'll leave it at that. After he died I didn't do any interviews because I didn't want to say anything disparaging about him.
"I was saddened by his death," Lukas said. "It was a tragic thing, but no one was surprised."