06/08/2001 12:00AM

Lukas speaks out about Antley

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ELMONT, N.Y. - Trainer D. Wayne Lukas spoke out Friday about the late jockey Chris Antley, questioning Antley's commitment during their run for the 1999 Triple Crown with Charismatic.

After winning the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, Charismatic suffered a career-ending injury in the Belmont Stakes, finishing third. After crossing the finish line, Antley pulled up Charismatic, dismounted, and cradled Charismatic's injured leg. His actions were widely credited with helping to save the horse's life.

Lukas disputed the notion that Antley had been close to Charismatic, saying Antley had no contact with either Lukas or Charismatic in the days after the horse's injury.

"I'm not saying it was insincere," Lukas said about Antley's holding Charismatic's leg. "Maybe it was an emotional response. It may have been sincere in that second, but it wasn't carried very, 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.

Lukas made his comments Friday, a few hours before Antley was to be memorialized during the Belmont Stakes parade in nearby Garden City. Antley, who was troubled by drug problems throughout his career, died last Dec. 2 at 34, the result of intoxication from multiple drugs.

Lukas said that he had considered a rider switch going into the 1999 Belmont.

"I thought he wasn't focused," Lukas said of Antley. "He had no interest in the horse. From the time he won the Derby, the next time [Lukas saw Antley] 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."

Lukas said the decision to keep Antley on Charismatic was a tough call. "We finally decided that he didn't make any mistakes on the horse," he said, referring to Antley's rides in the Derby and the Preakness, "so what difference could it make in the third one?"

Lukas said he had refrained from speaking about Antley in the past for fears of disparaging him. "We had a great ride together," Lukas said. "It was a chapter in Chris's life his family could look back on pride with. We'll leave it at that."

When informed of Lukas's comments, Ron Anderson, who was Antley's agent in 1999, said: "Chris passed away, and I tend to want to talk about the positive things."