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CHARISMATIC LOSES CROWN AND CAREER; FAVORITE HURT, MUST RETIRE; LEMON DROP KID WINS BELMONT.

Byline: Kevin Modesti Daily News Staff Writer

Charismatic found out Saturday that the line between immortality and mortality is as narrow as a thoroughbred's ankle.

One moment, he was battling for the lead, only the Belmont Stakes homestretch and a couple of long shots standing between him and the Triple Crown. The next, he was hobbling across the finish line third behind upsetter Lemon Drop Kid and tough Vision and Verse, and Charismatic was being wrestled to an urgent halt by jockey Chris Antley.

Events unfolded rapidly in the emotional swirl that followed: Antley jumping off the colt and feeling the 3-year-old's legs for injury; the boyish rider dissolving in tears in a friend's hug; veterinarians and a horse ambulance rushing to the scene in front of 85,818 silent fans; the rush back to trainer D. Wayne Lukas' barn to have X-rays taken; the attempts of Belmont Park officials to describe the injury and soothe a worried public.

And then, amid a collective exhale, the announcement that although Charismatic's left foreleg fracture is serious enough to end his amazing racing career, barring complications it should not be life-threatening. Surgery will be performed this morning.

``I'm very encouraged about what I just heard,'' Lukas said after the X-rays were developed. ``He had a good run. It's unfortunate.''

Lemon Drop Kid's photo-finish victory was celebrated by owner Jeanne Vance and her husband Laddie Dance - then unaware of Charismatic's injury - by trainer Scotty Schulhofer and jockey Jose Santos and by the few fans who cashed $61.50 win tickets.

But the excitement that had attended the $1 million race and the third Triple Crown bid in three years was gone, hauled away in a horse van.

``I would feel a lot better if this didn't happen,'' said Schulhofer, whose other Belmont victory, with Colonial Affair and Julie Krone in 1993, was marred by the fatal breakdown of favorite Prairie Bayou.

Charismatic, surprisingly close to the filly Silverbulletday's quick early pace, apparently took his fateful step when he bobbled noticeably about two strides from the wire. By then he had already faded to third after taking a brief lead on the turn for home.

Antley said, though, that he'd felt a sensation ``like the air going out'' beneath him with about one-quarter mile to go in the 1-1/2-mile race.

Antley's quick action to pull the horse up was credited by Lukas and veterinarians with preventing further damage and perhaps a fall. But as it was, Charismatic had injuries described technically as a displaced condylar fracture of the cannon bone and a cracked sesamoid bone.

In layman's terms, he has a vertical break of the large bone above the ankle, leaving bone fragments that will require surgical repair, and a break in a smaller bone alongside the ankle. The skin did not break.

Veterinarians said Charismatic was placed in an air cast before walking into the ambulance, and was fitted with a hard splint when he returned to his stall in Belmont's barn 10. He was given tranquilizing and anti-inflammatory medicines. ``He's in distress,'' said Dr. Stephen Selway, the vet who examined the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner. ``He's just hiding it, like most horses.''

Surgery could be performed at the track as early as today. ``It looks like a three-screw job,'' Selway said.

Dr. Larry Bramlage, a Lexington, Ky., veterinarian who serves at major thoroughbred racing events as spokesman for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, said precisely when the injury occurred was ``pure speculation.''

Bramlage said it would be ``hard to make the case'' that the injury was brought on by Charismatic's extraordinary schedule, which had him racing five times in nine weeks and working out heavily as he rose from a Santa Anita Derby also-ran to within 1-1/2 lengths of the 12th Triple Crown.

``He went almost a mile and a half,'' Bramlage said. ``If he had some kind of (physical) problem before that, he couldn't have done that. . . . It's just an unfortunate accident.''

This was, on paper, merely the latest Triple Crown near-miss, the seventh since Affirmed completed the most recent sweep of the 3-year-old classics in 1978.

Charismatic, finally the bettors' favorite, proved his superiority over the horses expected to challenge him, Silverbulletday (a tired fifth) and Derby and Preakness runner-up Menifee (a never-close eighth).

But he couldn't beat Lemon Drop Kid, who'd been winless in stakes-level competition since winning the Belmont Futurity in September, his 3-for-10 career record including a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

Did the injury keep Charismatic from a place on the roster of racing's immortals? How good could he have gone on to be? We'll never know.

``We were prepared for not winning,'' said Bob Lewis, who, with his wife Beverly, owns Charismatic. ``But not this way.''

CAPTION(S):

3 Photos, 2 Charts

Photo: (1--Color) Jockey Chris Antley checks out the front left leg of Charismatic just after the favorite was hurt while finishing third in the Belmont.

Charles Krupa/Associated Press

(2--Color) Jeanne Vance, owner of Lemon Drop Kid, kisses the Belmont Stakes trophy, held by trainer Scotty Schulhofer, second from left.

(3) Jockey Jose Santos celebrates aboard Lemon Drop Kid after winning the Belmont stakes.

Richard Drew/Associated Press

Chart: (1) BELMONT STAKES CHART

1-1/2 Miles. Purse $1,000,000-Added 3 Year Olds. Stake Value Of Race $1,000,000. Value To Winner $600,000; Second $200,000; Third $100,000; Fourth $60,000; Fifth $30,000.

(2) Charismatic injures leg

SOURCE: Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook

Associated Press
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 6, 1999
Words:920
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