Two For The Money Underappreciated Charismatic was only a step away from the Triple Crown after a resounding win in the Preakness

May 24, 1999
May 24, 1999

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May 24, 1999

Faces In The Crowd

Two For The Money Underappreciated Charismatic was only a step away from the Triple Crown after a resounding win in the Preakness

Back in 1985, when he was a rising force in thoroughbred racing,
trainer D. Wayne Lukas purchased a wristwatch whose colorful
face expressed, as an incessant reminder, his most cherished
dream. Eleven horses have won the Triple Crown--from Sir Barton
in 1919 to Affirmed in 1978--and on the face of the watch, in
place of the hourly numerals, are the colored silks carried by
each of those winners, from one through 11 o'clock. Only 12
o'clock is not represented by a set of racing colors. Going into
last Saturday's Preakness Stakes, Lukas had won 11 Triple Crown
races, including all three in 1995 (with two horses) but he had
never won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness with the same
horse. "I've been wearing this watch for 14 years," said Lukas,
his voice touched by emotion in the wake of the 124th running of
the Preakness. "I wear it every time I run in a Triple Crown
race. I want that green and gold to go right on that 12 o'clock
high. I want to get that watch completed."

This is an article from the May 24, 1999 issue Original Layout

For the first time in his career, the 63-year-old Hall of Fame
horseman is just one win away from the most coveted of racing
achievements. Last Saturday, in a performance stunning for its
boldness and authority, the Lukas-trained Charismatic, the
long-shot winner of the Kentucky Derby, swept to the lead off
the final turn at Pimlico, opened a three-length advantage at
the eighth pole and, through the final 100 yards, under a hand
ride by Chris Antley, held off Menifee to win by 1 1/2 lengths.
Thus on June 5, for the third year in a row, a sound racehorse
with proven credentials and a quality of gameness to boot will
attempt to become the first horse since 1978 to sweep the spring

Moments after Charismatic charged under the wire, an exultant
Lukas was standing on the turf course at Pimlico, waiting in the
late-afternoon sun as Charismatic strode toward him. "This is
huge," Lukas said. Astride the colt, wearing the green-and-gold
silks of Bob and Beverly Lewis, Antley was beaming. "He was
better today than he was last time," the jockey said of
Charismatic. "I had way more horse today than I had in Kentucky.
He is such a free-running horse. It was a banner performance.
Win the Triple Crown? Yes."

For Lukas and the Lewises the victory was particularly
gratifying, given how Charismatic was disdained at Pimlico and
sent off as the fifth choice, at 8-1. Ever since the horse ran
for a $62,500 tag at Santa Anita in February--and despite his
smashing triumph in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland leading up
to the Derby--he could not shed the scarlet C that condemned him
as a former claimer. Indeed, in a poll of 12 leading
handicappers and racing writers, only two picked Charismatic to
finish in the top three at the Preakness, and both of them
predicted he would run second to Menifee. The colt had gone off
at 31-1 in the Derby, the roughest rodeo seen in Louisville in
years, and the prevailing view at Pimlico was that Charismatic
had benefited from a relatively uneventful trip while all the
favored horses had been crunched and clobbered. What further
soured bettors was the fact that the Preakness would be
Charismatic's fourth major stakes race in six weeks, an
unusually grueling schedule in this era of gingerly raced

Lukas defended his charge at every turn, even risking heresy by
conjuring up the brightest ornament on the colt's family tree.
Charismatic's sire, 1990 Preakness winner Summer Squall, is out
of a mare by Secretariat, and Lukas reminded all listeners that
the name of Secretariat's mother, Somethingroyal, appears one
other time in Charismatic's pedigree, and Secretariat's sire,
Bold Ruler, shows up twice. The colt, a thick-necked chestnut
with four white feet and a white marking on his face, bears a
striking resemblance to Secretariat. Furthermore, the 1973
Triple Crown winner was a phenomenal workhorse, and Lukas
pointed out last week that Charismatic did not get good until
Lukas drilled and raced him hard, too.

"What I've done with this horse, I don't think I could have done
with any of the other horses I've brought to the Derby or the
Preakness," Lukas said before the race. "They just wouldn't have
stood it. He seemed to thrive on it. He is probably as tight and
good and sound and eager a horse as I've had."

Charismatic looked spectacular in the post parade, his neck
bowed and his golden coat glowing in the sun, and he ran to his
looks. Racing six wide into the far turn, and defying a track
bias that favored the rail, Antley found himself trapped by
Stephen Got Even, so he yelled to the horse's jockey, Gary
Stevens, "Let me out!"

"Go on, little buddy," an obliging Stevens hollered back, moving
outside far enough for Charismatic to move through. Antley swung
outside and hit the pump. Coming off a torrid pace that had
wilted the leaders, Charismatic accelerated, sprinting past the
field to the top of the stretch. There Antley went to the lash,
first left- and then righthanded, and the colt drove on home as
the rest of the field reeled in his draft. "He was awesome,"
Stevens said. "A long, sustained drive, and he ran on. He's for

A sense of deja vu permeated the aftermath. Last year trainer
Elliott Walden saddled Victory Gallop for second-place finishes
behind Real Quiet in the Derby and the Preakness, just as he
trained Menifee in his chase to catch Charismatic. Victory
Gallop ultimately did catch Real Quiet in the Belmont, spoiling
his bid for the Triple Crown, and Walden is determined to be the
spoiler once more, though he added wistfully, "It hurts to be
second again."

The Lewises, meanwhile, relived all the joys of 1997, when their
horse Silver Charm took the Derby and the Preakness and headed
off in triumph for Belmont Park. The gray finished second in the
Belmont to Touch Gold, but last Saturday the husband-and-wife
team was back in the hunt, having become only the third owners
in history to send more than one Triple Crown candidate to Long
Island. (The first, Belair Stud, sent Gallant Fox in 1930 and
Omaha in 1935; the second, Calumet Farm, saddled five in 27
years.) The Lewises fairly danced around Pimlico on Saturday,
arm in arm, making their 51 years of marriage look like the
world's longest honeymoon. "Can you imagine the odds of having
two horses in three years winning the Derby and the Preakness
and going for the Triple Crown?" Bob Lewis exclaimed. "It's

It would be just as astonishing if one of those horses was a
former claimer. Drop the scarlet C, please. If Lukas can keep
the colt's nose in the feed tub, keep him focused and sound, he
will soon have what he's always wanted most in this sport: a
watch with 12 silks on its face.

COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES [T of C]COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY BILL FRAKES Hitting his stride Antley says Charismatic showed more in the Preakness than he did in his shocking Derby win.