Jockey's death investigated as homicide
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) -- The death of star jockey Chris Antley was being investigated Monday as a homicide after his body was found at his home with a blow to the head.
The two-time winner of the Kentucky Derby, who had struggled with alcohol and drugs, was pronounced dead at the scene with "severe trauma to the head," police said Sunday. An autopsy was pending.
"We do not believe that this was a random act, and so the detectives are looking into all possible suspects," police Cmdr. Mary Schander said.
Police arrested a man on Sunday on three outstanding drug warrants, and said he was an associate of Antley's.
Timothy Wyman Tyler Jr., 24, of Dana Point, was being held in lieu of $45,000 bail on warrants involving drugs and driving under the influence, police said.
Jim Herzfeld, Antley's next-door neighbor, said Tyler Jr. had been a frequent visitor to Antley's house.
Antley, 34, was found by a family member and a female friend late Saturday night, police said. A 911 call made about 11 p.m. described a man who was "lying inside the house, who may possibly be dead," police said.
Paramedics told police the circumstances appeared suspicious.
Another neighbor, Jerry Holt, said he was awakened late Saturday night by a car on the cul-de-sac street.
"I heard a screaming car leave the premises," he said.
Gary Stevens, a fellow rider and longtime friend who spoke Sunday with Antley's wife, Natalie, said he had been told it appeared the jockey was struck in the back of the head.
"He seemed to have some fear that something like this was going to happen," said Stevens, who last spoke to Antley three weeks ago. "A lot of things he was saying were not making sense to me.
"I love Chris as a person and all I can say is that mentally he was just having a tough time. He had a lot of demons haunting him."
The female friend of Antley's had gone to the airport to pick up the jockey's brother, and when they returned there was no answer at the door, according to Ron Anderson, Antley's former agent. "There seems to have been some struggle at the house," he said.
Natalie Antley, who is eight months pregnant with the couple's first child, was in New York at the time of his death, Stevens said. The Antleys met during the 1999 Triple Crown series and were married earlier this year.
The driveway of their home in a quiet, upscale neighborhood near the Rose Bowl was blocked with yellow police tape; a bouquet of pink and white roses rested against a black iron gate.
Detectives combed the front yard of Antley's house, going through papers in a dumpster and examining a window to the right of the front door. Antley had been renovating the million-dollar home in recent months.
A moment of silence was observed and flags were lowered Sunday at Hollywood Park in Inglewood.
Antley's career was interrupted by frequent battles with weight, alcohol and drugs. He lost his New York jockey's license in 1988, when he tested positive for cocaine and marijuana.
After entering drug rehab, he came back to win his first Kentucky Derby aboard Strike the Gold in 1991, then won the Derby and Preakness with Charismatic in 1999.
Antley stopped riding in March because of his ballooning weight, which the 5-foot-3 rider had tried to fight over the years with diet pills, fad diets and self-induced vomiting.
He finished second in his final race at Santa Anita on March 19.
Last year, Antley made yet another successful comeback from struggles with weight and depression to ride Charismatic, a lightly regarded 3-year-old. They missed winning the Triple Crown when the horse finished third in the Belmont Stakes, then pulled up just past the finish line with a broken leg.
Antley jumped off and immediately held the colt's leg until veterinarians arrived.
"He instinctively came to the aid of the horse. It was a very heroic and admirable circumstance," said Bob Lewis, who, along with his wife, Beverly, owned Charismatic.
Lewis said Charismatic might not have been saved without Antley's quick intervention. The injury ended Charismatic's racing career, but the horse is at stud in Kentucky.
"We just thought so highly of Chris," Lewis said.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas paired Antley with Charismatic and called the jockey "a very, very talented rider."
"When I think of Chris, I remember that he found himself in the right place at the right time and on the right horse," Lukas said. "I'm so glad that he had that opportunity to once more feel that thrill in his lifetime of winning America's ultimate race."
Lukas said he was surprised that Antley, whom he described as "a very likable guy," didn't continue riding this year.
"He had some personal problems that, I'm sure, were disruptive in his life," Lukas said. "But it certainly seemed he was headed in the right direction."
Antley, a high school dropout from Elloree, S.C., began his career in New York, and was the nation's leading rider in 1985 with 469 wins. He was the first jockey to win nine races in a single day, accomplishing that on Oct. 31, 1987, with mounts at Aqueduct and the Meadowlands.
He moved to Southern California in the 1990s. He won 3,480 career races from 19,719 mounts, and his horses earned more than $92 million.
Before returning to riding in February 1999, Antley had gained 30 pounds over his riding weight of 117. He returned home to Columbia, S.C., where eventually he began running 25 miles daily and followed a diet that allowed him to resume his career.
"If somebody could get inside my body and be as happy as me now, they'd be the happiest person in the world," Antley said before last year's Belmont.