• Rick Capone, Sport Editor

Charismatic, 1999 Horse of the Year, dies unexpectedly


CHARISMATIC, the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner who arrived at Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement farm in Georgetown from Japan on Dec. 3, 2016, ran around and explored his paddock the day after his arrival. The 20-year-old chestnut stallion unexpectedly died early Sunday morning, Feb. 19. He was 21. (Photo by Laura Battles)

Charismatic, the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, who had just arrived at Old Friends Retirement Farm in Georgetown from Japan on Dec. 3, 2016, died early Sunday morning, Feb. 19. He was 21. According to a press release from Old Friends, “The stallion was discovered early (Sunday) morning. Attending veterinarian Dr. Bryan Waldridge was immediately called to the scene, but the cause of death is unknown.” However, a preliminary finding was announced on Monday, Feb. 20. According to an article on BloodHorse.com, “… from the (postmortem) exam, they (Dr. Waldridge, Old Friends equine veterinarian, and Dr. Bell, both of Park Equine Hospital) found a pelvic fracture, which lacerated the vasculature causing hemorrhages.” The results of a full necropsy are still pending. “… Right now, everyone is pretty much inconsolable,” said Michael Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends. “Last night, at 6:30, he was fine. He was a really tough horse and he deserved a much longer retirement. But none of us, unfortunately, has a magic wand. Everyone at Old Friends takes solace from the few great months that this great Champion gave us.” Charismatic surprised many people when he won the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, but in the Belmont, he finished third and was pulled up after crossing the finish line due to an injury. A scene that is etched in people’s memories is of his jockey, Chris Antley, jumping off Charismatic just past the finish line and then holding the horse’s leg up to avoid further damage. He truly saved Charismatic’s life. That year, the beautiful chestnut stallion was named 1999 Horse of the Year and Champion 3-year old. He retired with five wins and $2,038,064 in earnings in 17 career starts. Once he recovered from his injuries, he stood at Lane’s End Farm from 2000-2002, then stood the rest of his career in Japan. Once he was retired from stud, Blowen and others set up a plan to bring him to Old Friends from Japan, as they had done for some others. Charismatic had settled into Old Friends very well. He even had a surprise visitor the day after he arrived when his former trainer, Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas came to see him. Lukas took one look at how good of shape his former horse was in and said, in a Dec. 5 BloodHorse.com article by Frank Angst, “Maybe we can run him again.” In that same article, Lukas said, “It’s very gratifying to know that through a 20-year span somebody really looked after that horse. That was the gratifying thing that no matter what happened or where he went, it was really gratifying that somebody really looked after him. He has a July hair coat; he just looks perfect. “… His ankle where he had the surgery and everything? You could hardly tell. They really took good care of him. That was an eye-opener for me. He was so well cared for evidently.” It is very sad that his time at Old Friends was so short. But, one of the few good things that can be said is that at least he got to come home to Kentucky where he was born.

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