10/19/2011 10:25AM

Chris Antley


ESPN's feature Charismatic, which aired Tuesday night, brought back the memories again.  It's been more than ten years since Chris Antley died and, despite the inevitable twinge of sadness, it always makes me smile to think of him.

It was early 1988 when a friend of mine showed Chris some of my photos and told him I'd like to start making stationery - notecards, postcards and such.  I lacked the money, and my friend asked Chris if he'd be willing to help get the business started by becoming a partner.

Chris didn't yet know my full name, but he smiled that charming smile and told me my photos were wonderful.  He offered me that week's paycheck and, since that check was from the week of his Gotham win aboard Private Terms, it was not small.  He said he did not want to be paid back but was looking forward to seeing the stationery.

I could not take the money, but Chris earned an instant - and lifelong - fan.   Whenever our paths crossed over the years, he tried to make me feel special - including smiling for my camera, his amazing eyes intent on me, as if we were the only two people in the world.  

He'd respond to anyone who wrote him e-mails, and he was incredibly generous with his possessions, money - and, most preciously, with his time.  Chris did his best to make countless people feel special.  

Above:  Chris Antley gallops back to the racing forefront aboard Charismatic in the 1999 Kentucky Derby.

Above and below:  Chris Antley and Private Terms, spring 1988.  Private Terms was Chris' first Kentucky Derby mount.  Chris was 22.

Above:  At Belmont Park, 1990.

Above:  Chris Antley and Nick Zito at Pimlico, before the Preakness, 1991.

Above:  Chris Antley on his Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold, in the Preakness post parade, 1991.

Above and below:  At Saratoga, 1991/1992.

Above:  At the jockeys' benefit softball game in Colonie, NY, 1988.

Above and below:  Turnback the Alarm, trained by Red Terrill, winning the 1992 Coaching Club American Oaks.  Below:  heading down Belmont's Grade I victory lane.

Above:  At the Saratoga jockeys' room.  This is 1992 and it's Antonio Graell at right, Ruben Hernandez at left.

Above and below:  Charismatic and Chris after the 1999 Kentucky Derby.

Above:  Chris hams it up, early 1988, Aqueduct.

Above:  Saratoga jockeys' room, late 1980s.  I'd guess it's agent Drew Mollica at right, judging from the hair.

Above and below:  Chris Antley and Cat's Cradle after winning the 1995 Fantasy (G1) at Oaklawn Park.  In a typical Chris touch, the jockey added a yellow daisy to Cat's Cradle's bridle.

Above:  Low and heading for the finish wire, wearing the famed Greentree silks.  

Above and below:  Chris piloted 3,460 horses into the winner's circle during his career, including generally forgotten names like Soft Ruffles (1987, above) and Clark Cottage (1990, below).

Above:  Chris Antley, the Ant, Ant Man.

Above:  Late 1980s.

Above:  Angel Cordero retires, Saratoga 1992.  Mike Smith and Robbie Davis in background.

Above:  Chris aboard Carson City, ca. 1990.

Above: Sporting a great tan, countless freckles and some very fashionable hair, summer 1993.

Above:  Chris won the 1999 Woodward and Jockey Club Gold Cup aboard River Keen.  He died the following year.

Above:  Chris with Wayne Lukas' son Jeff, 1991.

Above:  Chris with friends and family, Saratoga 1988.

Above:  Declan Murphy and Chris at a jockeys' softball game at the Saratoga rec center, 1987.

Above and below:  More softball.  Above, with Frank Lovato and David Neusch at right.  

Above and below:  Chris Antley aboard Strike the Gold, Kentucky Derby winner, 1991.

Above:  Chris at Saratoga, 1988.  Considering how the women loved him, it's interesting that the young fans in the photo are apparently all boys.

Above:  Chris, so often in the winner's circle.  Here I think it's Sandy Bruno, David Donk, Horatio Luro and Bill Hartack, 1991.  I'm not sure who the gentleman in the middle is (my apologies to him).

Above:  Keeping great company with Allen Jerkens, 1993.

Above and below:  Chris wore countless faces.

Above:  Charismatic and Chris win the 1999 Preakness.

Above and below:  Chris aboard Charismatic after their Preakness victory.

Above:  Chris Antley, flying high, 1999 Preakness winner's circle.  I love how he looked here.  

Above and below:  Chris Antley visits with Charismatic, and Wayne Lukas, during Belmont Stakes week.

Above:  During one of his countless interviews during Belmont Stakes week.

Above:  In the 1999 Belmont paddock, a sign, "GOOD LUCK CHRIS."

Above: Charismatic and Chris head postward for the Belmont Stakes.

Above:  Early in the Belmont Stakes.

Above:  After Charismatic's career-ending injury in the Belmont Stakes.

Above:  My favorite portrait of Chris, from the late 1980s.  This image is on Chris' gravestone in Elloree, South Carolina.