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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.
Your tribute to Chris Antley was very moving,i met Chris at Aquaduct Racetrack in NewYork,where i worked as a peace officer,he was always smiling,when he won the Kentucky Derby aboard Charismatic,my coworkers and i felt so Happy for him because he was such a great person,its been 15 years since his death but i miss him like it was yesterday. God bless you Chris.
A truly wonderful tribute to this talented boy. What a loss. Your photos are outstanding. Thank you for sharing them so we can all ways remember this kind soul.
Thank you Barbara for this beautiful tribute. I didn't know Chris personally but wish I could have. You are so right when you say that he "wore many faces." I believe he was an extremely sensitive and complex person. I'll never forget seeing he and Charismatic roaring down the homestretch at the Preakness. Thanks goodness I got to witness that victory. So good of you to remember him so beautifully.
wonderful wonderful pictures
Well done as always, Barbara. Chris Antley & Strike the Gold where the very first Kentucky Derby I had ever watched. I haven't missed watching a Derby since then. He will always be one of my favorite jockeys of all time. I will never forget what he did for Charismatic. It still brings tears to my eyes...
such a loss......thank you for all the memories yet again and a wonderful tribute to Chris
had the pleasue of being his neighbor when he rode at Belmont Park. Chris was in his early and was in High School. He became a great friend to my family and was always good to us. He was at my parents house the day he turned in his jockey license because he was usng drugs. i got to see another time after he NY. He never forgot my family and asked about them. The day he passed was a sad for my family. We lost a good friend that day. Never forgotten Chris. You will always be apart of my family. CK
The time has zipped by! The photos are so vivid,like they were taken only recently. Chris and I crossed paths when he rode for D. Wayne Lukas. In the late 80's,I left Hollywood Park Race Track,and flew in Tex Suttons Air Transportation,to Churchill Downs. We had a plane full of Lukas Stable horses. Chris was our jockey,for all the big races. When his name was on a program, or,announced in the Post Parade,everyone knew,that this race was important. Because,he could get a horse to fly to the finish line! For many years,he was important to the Sport of Kings. Years changed so much,in so many ways.Chris Antley will always be in our hearts forever.
Chris was also a talented artist who recognized your heart and talent Barbara. I am sure he is watching over you to this day. It is impossible to judge or second guess a person's split second decisions during life and a race. It was unfair to allude to all the negative possibilities leading up to and during Charismatic's Belmont run. Gary Stevens, you of all people were surprising with your comments. Chris isn't even here to comment. Who could ever dream what it must be like to walk in a young Chris's boots riding day and night at Belmont and the Meadowlands. Who were the people that gave him "a little help" so he could stay strong enough to ride like that while maintaining weight and not being able to eat a half a bagel. I hope and pray that he gets elected into the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame, he is deserving of it on and off the horses. The testimony on this blog from a kid struggling with drugs inspired by Chris is enough anyday. You, Barbara and Peb, another great artist truly captured the beauty of Chris' soul. Thank you Barbara
Totally agree with " too bad" !!