It was almost 1:02 pm when the horses crossed the finish line in Belmont’s first race on Saturday and the phones began to ring. The partners of Fantasy Lane Stable waited a long time for this moment and knew exactly what to say after answering the calls. Of all the responses that they had mentally prepared to give, the one that they most hoped to deliver was both the shortest and most positive.
“He’s back.” Two words which conveyed the collective culmination of 490 days of waiting, hoping and validation.
“He” is UPTOWNCHARLYBROWN, or Charly as his owners affectionately call him, a four-year-old Limehouse colt out of the Langfuhr mare La Illuminada. When last seen he finished fifth in the 2010 Belmont Stakes behind DROSSELMEYER. After rounding the clubhouse turn in that race, jockey Rajiv Maragh’s saddle slipped, causing an eight-pound weight underneath the saddle to dislodge and fall to the ground. Maragh struggled to control Charly the remainder of the race, and ultimately Charly was disqualified to last place for not carrying the full 126 pounds for the entire race.
After winning his maiden race and the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs by a total of 15 lengths, Fantasy Lane received numerous offers to purchase Charly and ultimately turned them down. Even before his first race, Alan Seewald, Charly’s trainer and lifelong friend of Fantasy Lane’s president and managing partner Bob Hutt, told Hutt that Charly could be the best horse that Fantasy Lane ever owned. However, just one month after finishing fifth in the 2010 Tampa Bay Derby, and days before he would try to punch his ticket to the Kentucky Derby racing in the Lexington Stakes, Seewald passed away at his home in New Jersey at the age of 62.
Seewald’s assistant trainer, Linda White would saddle him for the Lexington, a race in which he finished third, before moving to the barn of Kiaran McLaughlin prior to the Belmont Stakes. While others may have been skeptical of Charly’s chances in the Belmont, Hutt’s confidence was confirmed after Charly worked in company with McLaughlin’s best three-year-old at the time, TRAPPE SHOT, several times before the race and finished in front of him each time.
Charly works with Trappe Shot prior to the Belmont Stakes. Workout begins at :45 mark
Soon after the Belmont, Charly was diagnosed with a soft tissue injury, which he rehabbed in Florida with Irene Colletti, wife of Charly’s current trainer Ed Colletti, Sr., until returning to the worktab in July. Charly worked steadily at Belmont and Monmouth over the summer preparing for his return on Saturday. While only facing six other runners, his competition included TAPIZAR, winner of the G3 Sham Stakes in January and BOYS AT TOSCONOVA, winner of the G1 Hopeful Stakes last September and second to UNCLE MO in the 2010 Breeders Cup Juvenile. Collectively, those three had 1,064 days since their last races, and at one point in their respective careers were contenders for the Kentucky Derby.
The partners of Fantasy Lane knew they had a tough assignment on their hands for Charly’s first race back, which they dubbed “the comeback stakes.” After such a long wait, all they wanted was for Charly to come home safe.
“He doesn’t have to win to be a winner with us,” said Hutt as Charly made his way to the track.
Charly would run second on Saturday, after chasing Tapizar and jockey Corey Nakatani (who would go on to win five more races on the Belmont card) for seven furlongs in a final time of 1:21: 20 and beating Boys at Tosconova by 1 ½ lengths. (PDF chart)
Charly would carry the full 121 pounds for the entire race on Saturday, but the weight in the hearts of the partners of Fantasy Lane was much greater.
“Alan Seewald was the one who had the vision for this horse and deliberately took it slow with him,” said Hutt. “Charly is Alan’s legacy and we just hope that this time around with trainer Eddie Colletti that he gets to fulfill his destiny,”
Charly has earned more than twice his purchase price over his seven races, but for the partners of Fantasy Lane, Charly’s heart trumps the financial investment.
“I think that people or fans that really do their homework or are really into racing, know that he was a $57k purchase – not the usual millions that you hear are spent on these athletes,” said Fantasy Lane partner John Popovich. “He’s the working man’s horse. He run’s for all of us, and quite frankly, if asked he would run through a brick wall for us.”
Plans for Charly are still undecided, but for now, though, the most important thing for the partners of Fantasy Lane is still those two words. He’s back.