Jeff Burkhart

Charismatic Moving to Old Friends

1999 dual classic winner returns to the U.S. in late November.

Dual classic winner and 1999 Horse of the Year Charismatic will return to the United States next month from Japan to become a pensioner at the Old Friends Thoroughbred retirement center near Georgetown, Ky.

The 20-year-old stallion is coming from JBBA Shizunai Stallion Station, where he has stood since 2002. Plans call for the stallion to be shipped in late November with arrival times to be announced when they are confirmed.

Charismatic's journey is being sponsored in large part by a gift from his former owners, through the Robert and Beverly Lewis Family Foundation and also from the Austin, Texas-based vodka brand, Tito's Handmade Vodka.

Old Friends is now the home to three Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winners all repatriated from Japan by Old Friends. In 2014 the farm welcomed 1997 champion Silver Charm (also owned by the Lewis family) and the following year 2002 winner War Emblem. With the arrival of Charismatic, who won the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I), Old Friends will become one of the only farms in the country to be home to three Derby champions. 

"This is yet another dream come true," said Old Friends founder and president Michael Blowen. "Charismatic holds such special memories for so many racing fans, so it's particularly meaningful to be able to bring him home.

"We'd like to thank the people at Narvick International, Megumi Igarashi, and the JBBA's Kaori Matsuda, for keeping us apprised of his career in Japan all these years, and for making all of the arrangements for his trip," Blowen said. "And, of course, we are eternally grateful to the Lewis family for their unmatched generosity and to everyone at Tito's Vodka for helping us make this happen."

"My family and I are so pleased to learn that our Horse of the Year, Charismatic, will be returning from Japan, and will be joining our beloved Silver Charm at Old Friends," said Beverly Lewis, who campaigned the horse with her late husband, Robert. "Charismatic's star shone very brightly, though only for a few weeks in 1999, when he won the Derby, the Preakness, and took a shot at Triple Crown immortality. Unfortunately, he was injured in that last race and was never able to run again, but now we are all looking forward to visiting him when he arrives."

Eric Barlund, a vice president of sales for Tito's, said the company has been a staunch supporter of equine charities and that animal charities are "near and dear to Tito's heart."

"We are ecstatic that we are able to participate in bringing horse racing stars like Charismatic back home, where they can be revered by the public and help raise awareness for the cause," Barlund said.

Bred by Kentucky by Parrish Hill Farm and William Farish, and trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Charismatic (Summer Squall—Bali Babe, by Drone) had a Cinderella story racing career. In February of 1999 the chestnut colt was vying in claiming races at Santa Anita Park, but in April he earned a shot at the Derby by winning the grade II Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Dismissed at odds of more than 31-1, he collared Cat Thief a sixteenth of a mile from the Churchill Downs wire and held off a surging Menifee to win the Derby by a neck. He went on to win the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths and became the Lewis' second Triple Crown contender in two years. They also raced Silver Charm in 1997.

In the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), Charismatic stalked the pace instead of biding his time toward the back of the pack. When he took the lead with a quarter-mile to go, the record crowd of over 85,000 began cheering. Suddenly, however, he dropped back and was passed by eventual winner Lemon Drop Kid . Immediately past the wire, jockey Chris Antley pulled the colt up and jumped off. He grabbed the colt's injured left front leg and held it off the ground to prevent any further damage. Charismatic suffered multiple fractures in his leg.

The injuries, while not life threatening, ended his racing career. Charismatic earned that year's Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old colt, as well as Horse of the Year honors, and retired with five wins from 17 starts and earnings of $2,038,064. He entered stud at Lane's End in 2000 and stood there for three seasons.