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Chris W. Antley

Chris W. Antley
Induction Year: 
2015
Born: 
Jan. 6, 1966, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Died: 
Dec. 2, 2000, Pasadena, Calif.
Career Years: 
1983-2000
Number of Mounts: 
19,723
Number of Winners: 
3,480
Winning Percentage: 
17.60%
Earnings: 
$92,261,894.00

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Bio

Chris Antley’s calling in life was to ride racehorses.

 

Growing up in the small South Carolina town of Elloree (population 939), Antley discovered he had a rare connection with thoroughbreds.   

 

“He showed up on his bicycle one day when he was about 14 and I think he wanted to go fishing in our pond,” said Franklin Smith, who runs Elloree’s horse training center. “But instead, we put him to work, mucking out stalls, pulling the manure cart. He’d pedal that bike up here every morning and, if for some reason we were already leading the horses out of the paddock, he’d sit there with his arms crossed, just disappointed as hell.”

 

Antley honed his craft under the tutelage of Smith and worked his way up to exercise rider. He had a special talent of being able to relax even the most unruly of horses.

 

“His way with horses was almost otherworldly,” said Drew Mollica, Antley’s agent of six years. “He was, simply stated, and I say it unequivocally, the best.”

 

At the age of 17, Antley made his debut as a jockey at Pimlico Race Course in 1983. He won his first race at the Baltimore track that November aboard Vaya Con Dinero. Within a year, he had graduated to the bigger circuits of New York and New Jersey. In 1985, just his third year as a professional, Antley led all North American riders with 469 wins. He won a record 171 races at Monmouth Park that year and led the Monmouth riding colony in wins again in 1986 and 1987.

 

“He was brilliant, as talented as anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Antley’s close friend and Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens. “Very gifted. He connected with horses in a way that few people can. He was a natural.”

 

Antley won his first three Grade 1 races in 1987, the Monmouth Oaks, Gazelle Handicap and the Philip H. Iselin Handicap. That year he also achieved the spectacular feat of winning a world-record nine races in one day on Halloween when he had four winners in the afternoon at Aqueduct and five more that night at the Meadowlands. Antley ranked among the top 10 North American jockeys in wins each year from 1984 through 1987.

 

In 1989, Antley rode at least one winner in 64 consecutive racing days, stretching from Feb. 8 to May 1. He led the New York circuit that year with 234 wins and won the prestigious Saratoga riding title in 1990.

 

Already recognized as one of the top riders in the sport, Antley’s reputation as an elite jockey continued to grow in 1991 when, at the age of 23, he won the Kentucky Derby with Strike the Gold. Antley won a total of 16 graded stakes that year, including the Blue Grass, John A. Morris Handicap, Demoiselle, Comely, Orchid Handicap and Hawthorne Gold Cup.

 

Antley won six Grade 1 races in 1992: the Futurity, Ballerina, Test, Alabama, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks. The following year he added Grade 1 victories in the Hempstead, Shuvee and Philip H. Iselin handicaps, as well as the Go for Wand.

 

As the 1990s progressed, Antley continued to win major races, including the Hollywood Derby (1994), Santa Anita Handicap (1994), Acorn (1995), Santa Monica Handicap (1995), Las Virgenes (1996), Santa Anita Oaks (1996), Del Mar Invitational Oaks (1996), King’s Bishop (1999), Eddie Read Handicap (1999), Woodward (1999) and Jockey Club Gold Cup (1999).

 

In 1999, Antley piloted former claimer Charismatic to victory in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. At odds of 31-1, Charismatic was one of the longest shots on the board in the 125th running of the Derby when he defeated Menifee by a head. Charismatic had entered the Derby with only three wins in 14 career starts. Antley and Charismatic again defeated the favored Menifee in the Preakness, which was the final of 127 graded stakes wins for Antley.

 

On Dec. 2, 2000, Antley died at the age of 34. He was buried in the Bookhart Cemetery in Elloree. From 1983 through 2000, Antley won a total of 3,480 races, including 293 stakes, and had purse earnings of $92,261,894.

 

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