Charismatic, the flashy chestnut that gave trainer D. Wayne Lukas his fourth Kentucky Derby, went from a claimer to a horse with a chance to claim the Triple Crown in the span of 4 months. Foaled in Kentucky, Charismatic was bred on a foal-sharing partnership between William Farrish and Parrish Hill Farm. Purchased by Bob and Beverly Lewis as a weanling for $200,000, the colt was by the 1990 Preakness winner, Summer Squall, out of the Drone mare, Bali Babe.
The Lewis’s were lucky to keep Charismatic, as Lukas was trying to find a place to give the colt needed confidence. Running for a $62,500 tag twice, once at 2 and once at 3, just trying to recoup some of the losses they were incurring, no one actually got to turn in a claim. The first time a claim was to be put in, yet the potential owner didn’t have his owner’s license as the official who was in charge was on vacation. The second time trainer Mike Mitchell, who had been interested in the chestnut, couldn’t bring himself to put in the claim after an act of generosity given to him by Bob Lewis.
After the second claiming race, Charismatic would have two seconds and a fourth, before being entered into the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, which was two weeks before the Kentucky Derby. It was in this race that the chestnut with the four white feet, finally put it all together. Winning the race in what seemed to be effortless fashion, Lukas felt the colt may be better than he had believed. Confirming his thoughts were Jerry Bailey, who had ridden the colt in the Lexington, as well as Pat Day, who had finished second to him in the race. Both riders, in talking to Lukas, told him that they believed that Charismatic had a legitimate shot in the Derby.
Heading to Louisville for the 125th running, the race took place in front of 151,051. The crowd sent Charismatic off at odds of 31-1 in the field of 19. Under jockey Chris Antley, the duo took the lead in the final furlong after running wide, to pass under the wire a neck in front of Menifee in a time of 2:03.29. The win was the second for Antley, who had ridden Strike The Gold, in addition to being the second victory for the Lewis’s, having owned Silver Charm.
Two weeks later, Charismatic turned in another strong performance, at odds of 8-1, again defeating Menifee, this time by a length and a half. Suddenly, the horse that took 14 starts to win a stakes race, had a chance at Triple Crown immortality. Unfortunately, his effort in the Belmont would be remembered more for what happened after the race, as it became the subject of the NTRA’s moment of the year. Leading in the stretch, Charismatic faded quickly to finish third behind the longshot Lemon Drop Kid. Jockey Chris Antley immediately pulled the colt up as they passed the finish line. Knowing that something was wrong, he jumped off and picked up Charismatic’s left front leg, holding it until the equine ambulance arrived to help the anxious colt. It was later discovered that he had fractured his cannon bone which in turn had fractured the sesamoids. Antley’s actions had kept Charismatic from sustaining more injury, saving the chestnut’s life.
Though he didn’t race again, Charismatic was voted the 3YO Champion Male in addition to Horse of the Year. He recovered after a successful surgery, entering stud at Lane’s End in 2000, where he stood for 2 years. At that point he was sold to Japan to stand at the Shizunai Stallion Station. He remained in Japan until 2016, when he was pensioned and returned to the United States to take up residence at Old Friends Equine, as a result of Beverly Lewis along with support from Tito’s Handmade Vodka, paying to bring him home. Charismatic remained at Old Friend’s until his passing in February 2017, due to a fractured pelvis. His most notable offspring were Wonder Acute, a multiple group winner in Japan, in addition to the 4 time grades stakes winner of more than $2.2 million, Sun King.
(Photo courtesy of KDM archives)