Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com
Perhaps the biggest Triple Crown story at the end of the 20th century was the rags-to-riches success of Charismatic.
The chestnut colt took six starts to earn his first career victory, with that win coming in a $62,500 maiden claiming race. It took the colt another four starts to get another win, this time in an open claiming $62,500 race, which means anybody could have purchased him for $62,500 out of the race.
1996 Chestnut Horse
Sire (Father): Summer Squall
Dam (Mother): Bali Babe, by Drone
1999 Horse of the Year
1999 Champion 3-year-old male
1999 Kentucky Derby (G1) winner
1999 Preakness Stakes (G1) winner
Charismatic showed a flash of what he was to become in the El Camino Real Derby when he finished second by a head to Cliquot for his first top-three finish in a stakes in March 1999. But in dramatic fashion, Charismatic waited until his last race before the Kentucky Derby to assure himself a spot in the starting gate for the “Run for the Roses” when he won the Grade 2 Lexington Stakes by 2 ½ lengths.
"The thing Charismatic has going for him is he's getting so good so fast. Whether it's good enough, I don't know," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said the week of the Derby.
Charismatic’s Kentucky Derby was no less dramatic than the rest of his career. The colt was in seventh at the first point of call before moving up into the top three after a mile. Charismatic waited until midstretch to collar stablemate Cat Thief and take the lead. But the race wasn’t over, as he had to hold off a late-closing Menifee to win the race by a neck.
The win was the second Kentucky Derby triumph in three years for Charismatic’s owners Bob and Beverly Lewis and only the fourth horse they had run in the first jewel of the Triple Crown. For trainer D. Wayne Lukas, it was the completion of his late 1990s Derby domination as Charismatic was his third Derby winner since 1995. Jockey Chris Antley notched his second Derby with the win, also winning with Strike the Gold in 1991.
CHARISMATIC WINNING DERBY
Photo courtesy of Horsephotos.com
Charismatic was even more impressive in the Preakness Stakes, making a sweeping move entering the final turn and winning the race easily. A rivalry started to brew between two horses as Menifee again finished second, this time by 1 ½ lengths.
For the third year in a row, racing had a Triple Crown on the line when Charismatic headed to New York.
The Belmont Stakes attracted 12 horses, but even with the full field Charismatic was sent to the starting gate as the 8-5 favorite. Unlike his previous races, Charismatic went straight to the front, siting in second for most of the race before taking the lead as they turned for home. But in midstretch, the Triple Crown was lost when Charismatic grudgingly gave up the lead to Lemon Drop Kid and dropped back to third, 1 ½ lengths behind second-place finisher Vision and Verse.
Immediately after the finish line, Antley felt something go wrong with Charismatic and jumped off the colt. The jockey held up Charismatic’s left front leg to keep his weight off of it while waiting for help in a move that prevented farther injury. Charismatic had fractured his sesamoid and cannon bones in the race and had successful surgery a few days later to repair the injury.
After spending 12 weeks recuperating in Lukas’ barn, Charismatic was retired and moved to Lane’s End Farm to stand stud next to his sire Summer Squall.
"He's a tiger," Will Farish, Lane’s End owner told Sports Illustrated days after Charismatic arrived. "His healing is 95 percent there, and he wants badly to get out."
Charismatic was honored after his 3-year-old season with Eclipse Awards as champion 3-year-old male and Horse of the Year in addition to being booked solid for his first year at stud in 2000.
In July 2003, Charismatic was represented by his first winner, ironically in Japan. The stallion had been sold to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders Association in Japan in 2002, soon after that year’s Triple Crown hopeful War Emblem had been purchased by another farm in the country.
From 10 crops of racing age, Charismatic has had 343 of his 383 foals make it to the racetrack for a whopping 89.5 percent starters that have combined to earn more than $39.6 million through March 12. Of his starters, 249 have gone on to reach the winner’s circle with ten winning stakes. Charismatic is again attracting attention from breeders after having a successful 2012.
“He actually sired a Grade 1 winner in Japan last year and has been in the spotlight. He is currently quite popular with breeders,” Kaoru Matsuda of the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders' Association said.
As a sire of stallions in the U.S., Charismatic has three sons standing at stud, including multiple graded stakes winner Sun King. Sun King ranked 28th on the 2011 freshman sire list.
Charismatic has made an impact on the world through his daughters as well. From 224 foals, he has had 139 starters and 85 winners, including three stakes winners. But he hasn’t just been seen in the pedigrees of those in the winner’s circle. Charismatic’s young broodmare sire career has already given him two champions in Mil Azul and Ricura.
Fourteen years after his fairytale on the track came to an end, Charismatic is doing better than ever.
“His [racing] injury has healed very well and he seems to have no effects from it,” Matsuda said. “He is in good health with lots of energy.”
Much like his racing career, Charismatic is looking to come back in a big way in Japan over the next few years. If his racing career is any indication, Charismatic should never be counted out.