Chris Antley, whose struggles with weight, drugs and alcohol dogged a riding career that included two Kentucky Derby victories, was found dead at his home Saturday in an apparent homicide.
The 34-year-old jockey suffered “severe trauma to the head,” police said Sunday. An autopsy was pending by the Los Angeles County coroner.
“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.
Antley was found by a family member and a friend 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.
Appears to Have Been a Struggle
Ron Anderson, Antley’s former agent, said a 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.
“There seems to have been some struggle at the house,” Anderson 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.
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.
Timothy Wyman Tyler Jr., 24, a man police described as an associate of Antley’s, was arrested Sunday on three outstanding drug warrants. Police did not call him a suspect.
Personal Battles Throughout Career
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. Last year, he won the Derby and Preakness riding Charismatic.
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 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.
The injury ended Charismatic’s racing career, but the horse survived.
‘A Very Talented Rider’
“I know he had his problems, but he was a good kid,” Anderson said. “He was a very kind and generous person.”
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas called Antley “a very, very talented rider.”
“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, riding at both 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.