ESPN Films Charismatic: Documentary Proves That Second Chances Work in Sports

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIOctober 19, 2011

15 May 1999:  Charismatic with Chris Antley crosses the finish line ahead of Menifee (left) and Badge (right) to win the 124th Preakness at Pimlico Race Track in Baltimore, Maryland. Mandatory Credit: Doug Pensinger/ALLSPORT
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The story of Chris Antley is sad, heroic, and inspiring all in one.

In 1999, Charismatic became the third horse in a row to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. He also became the third horse in a row to fail to win the Belmont. 

But where Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) both lost at the finish line, Charismatic was kept from winning earlier in the race.

You can see a quick recap of 1999's Triple Crown races here:

But that only tells a part of the story.

Antley had recovered from drug addiction to take Charismatic to the brink of the Triple Crown, which still hasn't been won since Affirmed in 1978.

Not even two years later, Antley was found dead of what would end up being a drug overdose.

But his story until then is what makes sports so great. Yes, athletes fail from time to time and not just on the field of play. They let us down, but often recover.

Why do they recover? They recover because their ultimate goal is to get back to the top of the sport that they love, whatever it is.

Antley won the 1991 Kentucky Derby. He was clearly capable of great things, but his demons kept him from greater success in the sport.

Charismatic was a horse that had a similar story. Obviously, you can't compare a horse to a human, but Charismatic was nobody's favorite at the Kentucky Derby.

This was a pair that was meant for each other, which is part of what makes this story great. Antley overcoming his demons long enough to ride the horse to wins at the Kentucky Derby and Preakness is a tremendous sign of what second chances can do.

The fact that he jumped off of Charismatic and saved the horse's life is a great sign of what second chances can do.

If you really stop and think about it, this story has a real ironic twist to it. We too often see horses have to be put down at the end of a race because they are being pushed too hard. I've seen it several times; it never gets easier.

But now, watching that video, more than a decade later, the horse is still alive. Antley, the man more responsible than any for the horse being alive, is not.

Second chances don't often last forever. As a matter of fact, they rarely do.

This story doesn't have a fairy tale ending, rather it has a real ending. It makes the successes so incredible, but the end so sad.

But in sports, even if it's not long term, you realize that the great athletes strive to be the best. They may ultimately let you down, but their passion will give you the thrill of a lifetime.

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