Horse of the Year and dual classic winner Charismatic has died at the age of 21, Old Friends announced on Sunday.
The popular chestnut was discovered early Sunday morning and veterinarian Dr. Bryan Waldridge was called to the scene, but the cause of death is unknown. The results of a full necropsy are pending.
Winner of the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, Charismatic just returned to the United States on December 4 after being pensioned from stud duty at the JBBA Shizunai Stallion Station in Japan. He took up residence at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center in Georgetown, Kentucky.
“Right now, everyone is pretty much inconsolable,” said Michael Blowen, founder and president of Old Friends.
“Last night, at 6:30 (p.m. ET), 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 was famous for more than just his classic victories. Jockey Chris Antley pulled him up past the wire after finishing third in the Belmont Stakes while going for a sweep of the Triple Crown. The iconic image of Antley jumping out of the saddle, grabbing Charismatic’s left front leg, which had sustained multiple fractures, and holding it up until help arrived was emblazoned in the hearts and minds of racing fans for years to come.
Charismatic, who was campaigned by Bob and Beverly Lewis and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, would not race again. He retired from the track with a 17-5-2-4 career mark, $2,038,064 in earnings and, eventually, two Eclipse Awards as the 1999 Horse of the Year and champion three-year-old colt.
Charismatic first took up stud duty at Lane’s End Farm in 2000 and then headed overseas to Japan in 2002. Old Friends, the Lewis family and Tito’s Handmade Vodka worked together to bring him back to his birthplace of Kentucky upon his retirement from the breeding shed.