KENTUCKY DERBY HISTORY: DANCER’S IMAGE

There has been only one disqualification of the winner of the Kentucky Derby and that came in 1968.  Under today’s medication rules, it would not have occurred.

The first and second favorites in the 1968 Kentucky Derby were Calumet Farm’s Forward Pass and Peter Fuller’s Dancer’s Image, the latter being by the acclaimed racehorse and sire Native Dancer.  Like his sire, Dancer’s Image was a grey.  The colt was trained by Lou Cavalaris and ridden by Bobby Ussery.

The official chart depicted Dancer’s Image 1 ½ length win:

“DANCER’S IMAGE, void of speed through the early stages after being bumped at start, commenced a rally after three-quarters to advance between horses on the second turn, cut back to the inside when clear entering the stretch at which point his rider dropped his whip.  Responding to a vigorous hand ride the colt continued to save ground to take command nearing the furlong marker and was hard pressed to edge FORWARD PASS. “

The post-race urinalysis came back the week after the Derby with the finding that Dancer’s Image’s urine had traces of the anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, or bute, which was a legal medication in some racing jurisdictions in 1968 but not in Kentucky.  Dr. Alex Harthill, a noted racetrack veterinarian, said that he had administered bute to the colt six days before the Derby, supposedly enough time for the medication to clear the bloodstream.  Skeptics did not buy Harthill’s timeline because of some previous similar episodes the vet was involved in.

Two weeks later in the Preakness, Dancer’s Image was again disqualified after running third for bumping another horse and placed eighth in the ten-entry field.  Plagued by sore ankles, his racing career was over.

Never has a horse been disqualified in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Fuller spent years and, he said, $250,000 contesting the Derby disqualification, but to no avail.

Dancer’s Image stood at stud in the United States, Ireland, France, and Japan, with moderate success, and died in 1992 at age 27.

By current racing medication standards in the United States, Dancer’s Image won the Kentucky Derby fair and square.  But that was not the case in 1968 and the name inscribed as the winner will forever be Forward Pass.

Copyright © 2017 Horse Racing Business

The Kentucky Derby history series began on February 20 and concludes on May 1, appearing weekly on Monday.

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