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Chris Antley
1966 - 2000

Dateline: 12/03/00
Updated: 1/11/01

Born: 1/6/1966 in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Height: 5'3"
Weight: 111 lbs.
Family: wife Natalie, married April 2000 and currently pregnant
Career Record: 19,719 starts, 3480 wins, 2884 seconds, 2490 thirds, $92,203,341 in earnings (currently #23 on the all time money earners list)
First win: 6/11/1983 on Vaya Con Dinero at Pimlico

Career Highlights
  • Won the Kentucky Derby on Strike the Gold (1991) and Charismatic (1999)
  • Won the Preakness on Charismatic (1999)
  • 1985 lead the nation in wins with 469, 39 of them in stakes
  • First jockey to ride 9 winners in one day 10/31/1987 (4 at Aqueduct, 5 at the Meadowlands), also had 8 winners in one day in 1985 (5 at Monmouth, 3 at Garden State)
  • 1989 leading New York jockey with 234 wins
  • Amazingly he never won a Breeders' Cup race with 4th being his best placing in 8 starts
Note: Toxicology reports from the autopsy were released today and his death has been ruled as an overdose rather than homicide. Four different drugs were found in his system and it is theorized that he became delusional from the combination and various locations around the house to account for the numerous cuts and contusions before dying. His wife, Natalie Jowett, is currently in the hospital giving birth to their child. More details are available here with more to be posted as they become available.

Jockey Chris Antley was found dead in his Pasadena, CA, home Saturday night December 2nd apparently from a trauma to the head. Ron Anderson, his former agent, speculates that it was a homicide given that there were signs of a struggle inside the house. The incident occurred while his friend was picking up his brother who was arriving from South Carolina. The investigation is continuing and additional details are finally being released. (see articles linked below for more investigation details as they become available)

After the tragic Belmont ride
Gary Stevens was quoted from the jockeys' room at Hollywood Park saying he last spoke to Antley three weeks ago. At the time, his friend of 15 years was "pretty depressed" and had "some fear that something like this was going to happen. A lot of things he was saying were not making sense to me. I love Chris as a person and all I can say is that mentally he was just having a tough time. He had a lot of demons haunting him."

Born on January 6, 1966, his career began at the age of 16 in South Carolina where he rode quarter horses and worked out Thoroughbreds at the Elloree Training Center, eventually moving to Pimlico in 1983. Going to New Jersey the following year, he was the star of that circuit for three seasons, including the 1985 season when he was the nation's leading rider with 469 wins, 39 of them stakes races.

In 1986 he moved to the New York circuit. On Halloween 1987, he became the only jockey to complete the feat of nine wins in one day by winning four races at Aqueduct in the afternoon and another five at the Meadowlands in the evening, a feat that still stands in the Guinness Book of World Records. In 1989, his unprecedented streak of 64 racing days with at least one win led him to the New York jockey title with 234 wins and a 30% winning percentage. What made this even more amazing was that he started the streak soon after returning from a two-month drug treatment hiatus, having tested positive for marijuana and cocaine in late 1988.

Chris Antley winning the 1997 Woodbine Mile on Geri
Sadly, substance abuse and weight problems plagued him thoroughout his riding career. Later in 1989, he surrendered his jockey license to undergo more treatment and returned to the saddle in 1990 to win 206 races including some in Grade 1 competition. In 1991, he won his first Kentucky Derby aboard Strike the Gold. In late 1997, he quit the sport and returned to his native Columbia, South Carolina, where his weight ballooned to some thirty pounds over the riding limit. Trying to get back into the game, he ran 25 miles a day and controlled his diet. His running gained him a reputation in the local community: "I got the name Forrest Gump in South Carolina. All the people in Columbia, from the gas station, to the grocery store, to the bookstore - all my little stomps where I would run - I became a regular passing member of town."

Chris Antley aboard Charismatic after winning the 1999 Kentucky Derby
Returning to the track in 1999, trainer D. Wayne Lukas gave him a chance to prove himself aboard 30-1 outsider Charismatic in the Kentucky Derby. He did not disappoint, holding off Menifee in deep stretch for the win. After the Derby, he said "This has more sentimental value than anything I've done in my career so far. I've had everything handed to me. This was a little bit of a role reversal. I had to find the depths of myself to come back. I wish everybody in America could feel like I feel right now."

Winning the Preakness on Charismatic
After capturing the Preakness Stakes in convincing fashion aboard the former claimer, he was in line to win the 12th Triple Crown. Before the Belmont Stakes, he told the Associated Press: "If somebody could get inside my body and be as happy as me now, they’d be the happiest person in the world." Unfortunately, the Belmont Stakes ended with tragedy. Charismatic finished third but Antley sensed a bad step and immediately pulled him up after the finish. Once he dismounted, Antley held the stricken colt's left foreleg to prevent further injury until the veterinarians arrived. It was as if Antley was returning the favor -- Charismatic saved his life from substance abuse, and now Antley saved the colt from being destroyed. Co-owner Bob Lewis said, "He instinctively came to the aid of the horse. It was a very heroic and admirable circumstance. We just thought so highly of Chris." Charismatic underwent surgery, recovered, and has gone on to a career at stud.

Chris Antley aboard River Keen after winning the 1999 Jockey Club Gold Cup at Belmont
His Triple Crown performance that spring earned him some good mounts the rest of the 1999 season, including Forestry who won the King's Bishop at Saratoga and went on to finish fourth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. That race would be Antley's best and last showing in the Cup. Also in 1999, in conjunction with his participation in the stock market, he wrote a market tipsheet called "The Antman Report" and rang the Opening Bell at the New York Stock Exchange during the week before the Belmont Stakes.

Taking time off early in 2000 for arthroscopic knee surgery, he returned to the track in late February for the Santa Anita winter meet, winning three races out of 30 mounts. On March 19 after finishing fourth aboard Commendable in the San Felipe (who would go on to win the Belmont under Pat Day) and finishing second in his final race aboard Sixshooter a six furlong maiden special weight for 3-year-old fillies, he asked the stewards for time off to deal with unspecified personal problems. He was not heard from again until the tragic news of his death.

Chris Antley at the post-Derby party in 1999
He leaves his wife, who he married earlier in the year and who is pregnant with their first child due in January. The former Natalie Jowett worked for ABC Sports in 1999 and the couple met during the Triple Crown that year.

The funeral was held Saturday beginning at 1:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church of Elloree. Visitation was Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Fogle-Hungerpiller Funeral Home in Elloree, SC.

Antley's family is requesting that donations in his name be made to either the Disabled Jockey's Fund or the Special Olympics.

More info: (note that some of these are probably gone now since this was years ago)

Photos by author except Woodbine Mile photo which is courtesy of the Ontario Jockey Club

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