On February 19, the racing world bid a sad farewell to the great racehorse Charismatic.
The 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, who may have clinched the Triple Crown but for an untimely leg injury, passed away at Old Friends farm, a Thoroughbred retirement farm near Georgetown, Kentucky.
Old Friends President Michael Blowen said that the handsome chestnut stallion looked and acted fine on Saturday before he was found dead in his stall Sunday.
Preliminary necropsy results indicated that Charismatic suffered a pelvic fracture, which caused the 21-year-old horse to hemorrhage.
“Right now, everyone is pretty much inconsolable,” Blowen said. “He was a really tough horse and he deserved a much longer retirement … Everyone at Old Friends takes solace from the few great months that this great champion gave us.”
Charismatic started his career in claiming races, but quickly emerged as one of the best three-year-olds of 1999. Under trainer D. Wayne Lukas, he won the Lexington Stakes, and then went on to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
“He seemed uninterested in being a race horse when I first started him,” Lukas said. “In fact, he didn’t turn the corner until March of his 3-year-old season. But once he got going, he stayed gone.”
He might have clinched the elusive Triple Crown, but with an eighth of a mile to go, took a bad step. He fractured his left foreleg and had to undergo surgery to repair it.
“Fortunately, we had the right people there and he healed properly,” Lukas said. “He was OK after that.”
Charismatic still won Horse of the Year honors that year, and retired from racing with career earnings exceeding $2 million dollars. He started his stud career the following year, first in the United States and then in Japan, and arrived at Old Friends last December, where he quickly became a favorite resident.
“He connected with people that would come here and tell us stories about what that horse meant to them when he won the Kentucky Derby, and then when he broke his leg in the Belmont. He was just a touchstone for people’s own personal history with horse racing that very few horses could match.”
Old Friends is home to two other horses that also came close to winning the Triple Crown — 1997 Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm and 2002 Derby and Preakness winner War Emblem, as well as many other retired racehorses.
What is your favorite memory of Charismatic? Tell us in the comments below!
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