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Charismatic falters in attempt to win Triple Crown, hurts ankle
Lemon Drop Kid, Vision and Verse finish 1-2

NEW YORK -- Charismatic left the Belmont starting gate a mile and a half from racing legend. He left the track in a horse ambulance, his racing career over.

Just moments after the Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner finished third Saturday behind Lemon Drop Kid and Vision and Verse in the Belmont Stakes, a pall dropped like a curtain over the huge crowd as Chris Antley pulled up the big chestnut colt and dismounted.About an hour later, the word came that Charismatic fractured two bones in his left front leg -- the cannon bone and the sesamoid.

"That means he's through as a racehorse," said veterinarian Dr. Larry Bramlage. "We expect him to be fine as a stallion."

Another veterinarian, Dr. Jim Hunt, a veterinarian for Charismatic trainer D. Wayne Lukas, said the horse will have surgery probably Sunday or Monday but that it was not life-threatening.

"Naturally, you hate to see a horse get hurt," said winning trainer Scotty Shulhofer. "I would have felt better if it hadn't happened."

Even if the injury hadn't occurred, it appears Charismatic wouldn't have been able to hold off Lemon Drop Kid and Vision and Verse, who were a head apart at the wire, with Charismatic another 1 1/2 lengths back.

Bramlage said the injury apparently occurred just past the wire.

It was an unfortunate ending for the former claimer who had caught the public's imagination in his bid to give a Triple Crown to Lukas and owners Bob and Beverly Lewis. The Lewises had failed to win the Triple Crown two years ago when the Bob Baffert-trained Silver Charm finished second in the Belmont.

"We're devastated at the thought that anything could be wrong with Charismatic," Bob Lewis said.

A tearful Antley, who probably saved Charismatic from more serious injury by his quick action, said his mount "gave us a lot. He gave America a lot."

The disappointed Lukas, who has won 12 Triple Crown races and all three of them in one year but with different horses, said: "I think we had the right horse at the right place on the right day, but we didn't get the right situation.

"It's racing and these things happen. We'll deal with them," he said.

Lemon Drop Kid certainly deserved his victory but it was a disappointing ending, since many had hoped to see Charismatic become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since Affirmed in 1978.

The race also was billed as a showdown between Charismatic and the Baffert-trained filly Silverbulletday. Baffert had Triple Crown challenges foiled when Silver Charm, also owned by the Lewises, finished second in 1997 and Real Quiet, owned by Mike Pegram, Silverbulletday's owner, was second in 1998.

"Naturally, you hate to see a horse get hurt," said winning trainer Scotty Shulhofer. "I would have felt better if it hadn't happened."

Silverbulletday, making her debut against males after winning 11 of 12 against fillies, didn't foil Charismatic's bid for glory. But her presence in the race likely played a big part in his defeat.

Surprisingly, Charismatic chased the pace much earlier than is his custom, laying second behind Silverbulletday from the clubhouse turn until less than a half-mile remained.

Lemon Drop Kid, ridden by Jose Santos, was fourth with a quarter-mile to go, then was taken outside for his winning charge down the middle of the track. He took the lead from Charismatic with an eighth of a mile remaining and won in 2:27.88.

The colt, owned by Laddie and Jeanne Vance, paid a winning mutuel of $61.50, third-largest in the 131-year history of the race. His place and show prices were $26 and $10.60.

Lemon Drop Kid finished a head in front of Vision and Verse, trying to become the first non-Derby and Preakness starter to win the Belmont since Shulhofer did it with Colonial Affair in 1993.

Vision and Verse paid $44.40 and $17 and Charismatic was $3.60. Silverbulletday, ridden by Jerry Bailey, faded in the stretch and finished seventh in the field of 12 3-year-olds.

Completing the order of finish after fourth-place Best of Luck were Stephen Got Even, Patience Game, Silverbulletday, Menifee, Pineaff, Prime Directive, Teletable and Adonis.

Charismatic's pace surprised Bailey.

"It's tough to go head and head that far, but I could see Antley's horse was kind of rank. I looked over and he was trying to get him back, but he couldn't get him back," Bailey said.

It was the second victory in five starts for Lemon Drop Kid, the grandson of Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner. Lemon Drop Kid had finished ninth in the May 1 Kentucky Derby, then skipped the Preakness two weeks later and prepped for the Belmont with a third in the Peter Pan on May 23 at Belmont.

Charismatic was the 8-5 favorite ahead of Menifee (5-2) and Silverbulletday (5-1).

The crowd roared in anticipation of a stretch battle between the filly and Charismatic, but Silverbulletday faded and Lemon Drop Kid and Vison and Verse stole Charismatic's thunder.

Charismatic had gone from racing for a $62,500 claiming tag on Feb. 11 to the brink of racing history, but Lemon Drop Kid stole the show.

The winning mutuel payoff was the highest since 1980, when Temperance Hill beat the filly Genuine Risk and paid $108.80. In fact, the payoff was the third-highest in Belmont history.

Prime Directive broke on top but when the field entered the clubhouse turn, it was Charismatic surprisingly in the lead, followed by Patience Game and Menifee. They held that order entering the backstretch with a mile to go.