Archives for April 2018


The economic and equine stars are aligned for a 2018 Kentucky Derby pari-mutuel blowout.  Here’s why:

  • North American and U. S. pari-mutuel handle increased slightly in every year from 2014 through 2017 and the upward trend has continued in 2018.  Moreover, Keeneland closed out its spring meet with near-record handle, recovering from a bettors’ boycott in 2017.
  • The U. S. economy is strong with the unemployment rate at 4.1% (near full employment), jobless claims the lowest in 42 years, wage growth the best in a decade, and the recent federal tax cuts for individuals and corporations are just starting to make a difference.  This scenario encourages consumers and provides extra disposable income to spend on entertainment like betting on horse racing.
  • The Kentucky Derby field is very competitive with seven colts in the 20-horse field that are currently at 7 ½-to 1 odds or less and several live longshots that could close late in the stretch and boost payouts on exotic bets.
  • The presence of the royally-bred colt from Ireland Mendelssohn, currently at 9/2 odds, will attract lots of betting from the British Isles.  The colt destroyed the field in the UAE Derby in March and is owned and trained, respectively, by the formidable Coolmore Stud and Aidan O’Brien.
  • The weather forecast for Derby Day is for 79 degrees and partly cloudy with a 20% chance of rain.  That should put bettors in the mood to open their wallets.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business


On April 24, 2017, Horse Racing Business wrote about the 1968 Kentucky Derby (click here to access the article), in which Dancer’s Image was disqualified days after the race for having traces of the then-banned anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone (“bute”) in his bloodstream.  Approaching the 50th anniversary of the race, here is a different look at the events leading up to and following the race.

On April 4, 1968, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.  Peter Fuller, the owner of Dancer’s Image, pledged the colt’s winnings from the upcoming Wood Memorial Stakes to King’s widow, Coretta Scott King.  When Dancer’s Image won the race, Fuller followed through by sending Mrs. King the purse of $60,000.  (Fuller had served on the board of trustees of Boston University and admired Reverend King, who held a doctorate from the school.)  Fuller reported receiving plaudits and hate messages for his act of kindness and gratitude.

Then, in May 1968, came Dancer’s Image’s disqualification in the Derby and the lingering controversy.  After four years of litigation and hiring of chemists as expert witnesses, Fuller had spent about $250,000 to no avail.  The only disqualification of the putative winner in Kentucky Derby history stood.

Fuller went on the record as stating that his colt was disqualified–and his appeal denied–owing to bias by stewards and members of the Kentucky State Racing Commission, who had pressure put on them from powerful interests within Kentucky.  Fuller implied that racism was involved over his monetary contribution to Mrs. King.  He overtly alleged that Forward Pass, the second-placed colt in the 1968 Kentucky Derby, who was declared the winner, was elevated because he was owned by the doyenne of bluegrass society, Lucille Parker Wright Markey of Calumet Farm.

Fifty years past 1968, there are at least two ways to view the stewards’ decision.  On the one hand, bute was a forbidden race-day medication in Kentucky at the time, so the stewards and the Racing Commission were scrupulously following the rules.  On the other hand, the blood sample from Dancer’s Image had only traces of the medication and, arguably, bute did not affect the outcome of the race.  Yet if stewards had ignored the test results and kept Dancer’s Image as the Derby winner, they would have been accused of flouting the written rules and possibly of participating in a cover-up of the evidence.  As for Fuller’s allegations of racial bias and a provincial preference for Forward Pass’s owner, there is no way to ascertain the truth…and people are left to draw their own conclusions.

Peter Fuller died in 2012, living 44 years after the incident that rocked the racing world.  His unique legacy is that of the man who briefly did and then permanently did not own a Kentucky Derby winner.

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

Sidebar:  The attorney who represented Fuller in his appeal, Edward S. Bonnie, died on March 17, 2018, less than two months away from the 50th anniversary of the Derby incident that gave him so much name recognition in the world of American horse racing.


The China Horse Club (CHC) has been a going concern only since 2013 but has an exceptional record of success.  According to its website, it has won over 350 races in nine different countries, including almost 20 Grade I events, most notably the Epsom Derby, the Irish Derby, and the Kentucky Oaks.

The CHC stands a good chance of adding the 2018 Kentucky Derby to its achievements.

The organization was founded in 2013 by Teo Ah Khing “to be Asia’s premier lifestyle, business, and thoroughbred racing club.”  Teo Ah Khing is a Malaysian-Chinese Harvard-educated billionaire architect, who designed Meydan, the palatial racetrack in Dubai where the Dubai World Cup is held.  Since its inception, CHC has partnered with some of the world’s leading racehorse owners and breeders and its advisory board includes John Warren, the bloodstock advisor to Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

CHC has ownership interests in Santa Anita Derby winner Justify and Florida Derby winner Audible (and runner-up in the Arkansas Derby Quip, who is being prepped for the Preakness).  The trainers of Justify and Audible are, respectively, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher.

The latest Kentucky Derby Media Poll of contenders has Justified ranked first and Audible fourth.

Only two owners (John Galbreath and Paul Mellon) have owned both Kentucky Derby and Epsom Derby winners, but it took them many years to do so.  CHC might accomplish the feat within five years of its founding.*

Copyright © 2018 Horse Racing Business

*Were Mendelssohn, Solomini, or Enticed to win the 2018 Kentucky Derby, his owners would also have achieved the rare feat of winning both the Epsom Derby and the Kentucky Derby.