Charismatic, a claiming horse in February, became a miracle worker on the first Saturday in May.
At least he was to jockey Chris Antley after storming to a neck victory over Menifee in the 125th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
He was to owners Bob and Beverly Lewis, and he certainly was to many in the crowd of 151,051 by paying a winning mutuel $64.60, third-largest in Derby history behind $184.90 by Donerail in 1913 and $72.40 for Gallahadion in 1940.
While trainer D. Wayne Lukas claimed his fourth Derby win and his third in the 1990s, Bob Baffert failed to become the first person to win three straight Derbys. His three horses ran out of the money Prime Timber was fourth, the filly Excellent Meeting fifth and the gelding General Challenge 11th in a field of 19 3-year-olds.
The entry of Excellent Meeting and General Meeting was the 5-2 favorite, meaning no betting choice has won since Spectacular Bid in 1979.
Charismatic was eighth in the run down the backstretch and moved to fifth entering the final turn. By the time he was exiting the turn, he was third and driving.
Menifee was way back on the backstretch but also moved into contention on the turn and joined the battle as the crowd roared.
At the head of the stretch, the winner was third on the outside, with Cat Thief, also trained by Lukas, on the rail and Wordly Manner in between and beginning to fade.
Charismatic then pulled away from Cat Thief and withstood the driving Menifee, who gave trainer Elliott Walden his second runner-up finish in his second Derby. Last year, his Victory Gallop finished behind Real Quiet.
Menifee finished three-quarters of a length ahead of Cat Thief, who was 1 ¼ lengths ahead of Prime Timber.
Antley got the winning mount when Jerry Bailey elected to ride Worldly Manner for the Godolphin stable of the Makhtoum family of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Wordly Manner was making his first official start since winning the Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 9, though he did participate in a trial race in Dubai on March 21.
"Miracles were made to come true," said Antley, winning his second Derby in his eighth try. "This is the greatest sport there is. It is the sport of kings."
Last year, Antley wasn't riding because he was overweight and had thoughts of quitting.
"I didn't think I was going to be back," he said. "I told my dad, `The Derby's coming soon and wouldn't it be neat if I could ride in it?"'
When it was all over, there was Chris Antley, feeling like a king of the back of a strapping chestnut colt who had the blanket of roses draped over his withers.
"Unbelievable!" shouted owner Bob Lewis.
It was the Lewis' second Derby victory, the first coming with the Baffert-trained Silver Charm in 1997.
"What are you going to do?" Baffert said. "You can't win them all. I'm just glad for the Lewises."
"I don't think anybody in America gave this horse a chance," said Lukas, who was voted into the Hall of Fame on Tuesday. "He's a greatly improved horse. Every day, he gets better and better and better and that's a dangerous situation here in the Derby."
Earlier in the week, Lukas, who scored his 11th victory in a Triple Crown race, had said, "The thing Charismatic has going for him is he's getting so good so fast. Whether it's good enough, I don't know."
Everybody knows now.
Lukas, however, also admitted that he wasn't always high on Charismatic, who was racing for the third time in 28 days and 15th time in his career more than any other Derby starter.
"I probably in my career never misjudged a horse as I did this one," Lukas said, referring to the son of Summer Squall, the 1992 Derby runner-up. Charismatic raced in a $62,500 claiming race on Feb. 11 at Santa Anita, finishing second. He followed with seconds in an allowance and in the El Camino Real Derby.
Then, on April 3, the colt came in fourth behind General Challenge, Prime Timber and Desert Hero in the Santa Anita Derby and Lukas said he would go on to the Kentucky Derby.
Still, the trainer saw fit to send Charismatic in the Lexington on April 18 at Keeneland, which he won.
But that triumph wasn't enough to make most people consider Charismatic a serious Derby contender.
Charismatic also paid $27.80 to place and $14.40 to show in earning a record $886,200 from a record $1,186,200 purse.
Menifee, ridden by Pat Day, seeking his second Derby victory in his 17th try, paid $84.0 and $5.80. Cat Thief, ridden by Mike Smith, was $5.80 to show.
Cat Thief is owned by W.T. Young and so wasn't coupled in the betting with Charismatic.
Completing the order of finish after Prime Timber were Excellent Meeting, Kimberlite Pipe, Worldly Manner, K One King, Lemon Drop Kid, Answer Lively, General Challenge, Ecton Park, Desert Hero, Stephen Got Even, Valhol, First American, Adonis, Vicar and the filly Three Ring.
The two fillies were trying to become the fourth of their sex to win a Derby and first since the Lukas-trained Winning Colors in 1988. General Challenge and Valhol were trying to become the first gelding to win since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.
Lukas had high praise for Antley.
"I thought Chris was a great fit for the horse," Lukas said. "He's hungry and he's won the Derby. I like the way he looked me in the eye and said, `I'll get it done."'
Before Baffert, Lukas was the fifth to try to win three straight Derbys. He won with Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Grindstone in 1996. But his Deeds Not Words finished 13th in 1997, when Baffert won with Silver Charm.
Lukas also duplicated Baffert's feat of a first (Real Quiet) and a third (Indian Charlie) in a Derby.
"We were really apprehensive and nervous until we won two weeks ago," Bob Lewis said
On Saturday, the best word to describe the Lewises was "thrilled."
"I'm going to Baltimore, God willing, with a great deal of confidence," Lewis said, referring to the May 15 Preakness.
Charismatic became the first horse to win a Derby off a victory in a prep race since 1991 when Strike The Gold won the Blue Grass.
Luck smiled on Lukas and the Lewises long before the Derby when Charismatic wasn't claimed out of that February race.
"I was scared to death the colt would be claimed," Lukas said after the Derby.
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
© 1999 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.