Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Look Back: 1999 Belmont Stakes

Jockey Jose Santos after winning the Belmont Stakes ten years ago aboard Lemon Drop Kid, his first win in a Triple Crown race. Santos denied the Crown bid of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Charismatic in this race. (Photo courtesy of UPI - you can see a video of this race by clicking here)

The 131st running of the Belmont Stakes provided a feel-good story: A former claimer that came from out of nowhere to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, ridden by a jockey that fought many personal battles to return to the top of his game. However, a race that started with nothing but promise for Charismatic ended in tragedy.

Jockey Chris Antley kept Charismatic close to the lead for most of the mile-and-a-half race, making his move on the far turn and taking the lead briefly from Silverbulletday at the top of the stretch. However, Antley may have kept him too close, considering he won the Derby and Preakness aboard Charismatic with a mid-pack closing move. This opened the door for 29-1 longshot Lemon Drop Kid to pass the favorite at the eighth pole. Lemon Drop Kid went on to win the race by a head over fellow longshot Vision And Verse, but the 1999 Belmont will be forever remembered for Charismatic being pulled up by Antley shortly after the finish, when the horse broke a bone in his leg. Antley stayed with the horse until the track veterinarian made his way to him, and was credited with saving the horse's life. Charismatic currently stands at stud in Japan and has foaled many successful runners, including the Nick Zito trainee Sun King.

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