ELLOREE—Chris Antley, the winning jockey who competed on horse racing’s biggest stages, will be remembered by his hometown of Elloree with a memorial sign dedication ceremony the week of the 54th running of the Elloree Trials.
The dedication will be held at the entrance of the Elloree Training Center at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 13. Members of the Elloree Trials Committee, along with others from the community, will be on hand to honor Antley.
It was at the Elloree Training Center where Antley, as a teen, first showed an interest in working around horses and then began exploring a career as a jockey.
Antley left Elloree when he was 17 in search of more challenging races. He went on to achieve two Kentucky Derby wins and break several major jockey records.
Frankllin “Goree” Smith, owner of Elloree Training Center, said Antley is deserving of the March 13 recognition.
“There’s no doubt about that. When he was at the top of his game, he was as good of a jockey as anyone else in the nation as far as his racing wins. He was just the ultimate jockey and athlete,” Smith said.
Antley, who died of a drug overdose in 2000, was posthumously inducted by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York, in 2015.
“That’s really the ultimate honor in the racing category as far as the sport goes,” Smith said. “It’s really quite an honor, and he was certainly deserving of it. He was some athlete.”
Chuck Field, a member of the Elloree Trials Committee, agreed, saying, “That was quite an accomplishment for someone from Elloree. He had won two Kentucky Derbies and also a Preakness and close to 4,000 racing victories. That is very notable.”
Antley became the first jockey to win nine races — four at Aqueduct, five at the Meadowlands — on nine different horses in a single day in 1987. That one-day feat still stands in the Guinness Book of World Records.
He won at least one race a day for 64 consecutive days in 1989.
Antley moved to California in 1990. After his career was interrupted by battles with keeping under weight limits (set for jockeys) and dealing with alcohol and drug addiction, Antley came back to win his first Kentucky Derby aboard Strike the Gold in 1991. Then in 1999, he returned to ride Charismatic to victory in that year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Charismatic finished third in the 1999 Belmont Stakes after injuring his leg in the stretch run.
Smith said he knew early on that Antley had a special talent.
“He just had raw talent. You just know. You see it developing and just hope that everything will take care of itself and get him there — get there and just do it, and he did just that,” he said. “We’re proud of that. He’s something else. A good kid.”
In a career that spanned from 1983 until his death at age 34, Antley won 3,480 races with documented purse earnings of $92,261,894. He won 127 graded stake races and 293 overall stakes. The Elloree native led North American riders with 469 wins in 1985 and ranked in the top 10 nationally in wins each year from 1984 through 1987.
“We don’t want to forget that,” Field said. “It’s quite an accomplishment for someone from a small little community.”
Smith said the town of Elloree will celebrate the 54th running of the Elloree Trials on Saturday, March 19. The 11-race event features the best young thoroughbreds and quarter horses in the Southeast.
“We’re just proud it’s been around awhile and that people enjoy it. It’s a good springtime event,” Smith said.
For more information about the March 13 memorial sign dedication or the Elloree Trials, call Debbie or Anne at the Elloree Training Center at 803-897-2616.