Dancer's Image

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Dancer's Image
SireNative Dancer
DamNoors Image
FoaledApril 10, 1965[1]
CountryUnited States
BreederRunnymede Farms
OwnerPeter Fuller
TrainerLou Cavalaris, Jr.
Record24: 12-5-1
Major wins
Clarendon Stakes (1967)
Grey Stakes (1967)
Vandal Stakes (1967)
Maryland Futurity Stakes (1967)
Wood Memorial Stakes (1968)
Kentucky Derby (1968) (Disqualified)
Last updated on May 18, 2010

Dancer's Image (April 10, 1965 – December 26, 1992) was an American Thoroughbred racehorse who is the only winner in the history of the Kentucky Derby to have ever been disqualified.


Dancer's Image was a gray horse owned and bred by businessman Peter Fuller, the son of former Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller. The colt was trained by Lou Cavalaris, Jr. and ridden in the Derby by jockey Bobby Ussery. Dancer's Image's father was Native Dancer, who won the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and was voted the United States Horse of the Year for 1954[2] and who, in turn, was a son of the 1945 Preakness Stakes winner, Polynesian.

Racing career[edit]

Early career[edit]

At age two, Dancer's Image won graded stakes races in Maryland and at Woodbine Racetrack in Ontario, Canada. At age three, in the lead-up to the 1968 U.S. Triple Crown races, he won several more races including the Grade I Wood Memorial Stakes. For the Kentucky Derby, he was a second choice among bettors to Calumet Farm's Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes winner Forward Pass.[3]

1968 Kentucky Derby[edit]

Dancer's Image was plagued by sore ankles during his career. On the Sunday prior to the Kentucky Derby, his handlers had a veterinarian give him a dose of phenylbutazone, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory commonly used to relieve inflammation of the joints. At the time, it was illegal for phenylbutazone to be in a horse's system on race day at Churchill Downs; however, Dancer's Image's connections believed the medication would clear his system in time for the Derby.

Dancer's Image won the 1968 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified to last after traces of phenylbutazone were discovered in the mandatory post-race urinalysis. Second-place finisher Forward Pass was declared the winner. The controversy filled the sporting news of every media outlet in North America and was the cover story for Sports Illustrated magazine, which referred to it as the sports story of the year.

Kentucky Derby aftermath[edit]

Owner Peter Fuller and the horse's handlers believed someone else may have been motivated to give the colt another dose of the drug and filed an appeal of the disqualification.

The Kentucky State Racing Commission examined the matter and ordered distribution of the purse with first money to Forward Pass. Fuller took legal action, and in December 1970 a Kentucky Court awarded first-place money to Dancer's Image.[4] That decision was overturned on appeal in April 1972 by Kentucky's highest court in Kentucky State Racing Comm'n v. Fuller, 481 S.W.2d 298 (Ky. 1972).

Controversy and speculation still surround the incident, and The New York Times calls the ruling the "most controversial Kentucky Derby ever".[5] Forty years after the disqualification, owner Peter Fuller still believed he was a victim of a set-up, due to his being a wealthy civil rights sympathizer from Boston who offended the Kentucky racing aristocracy by donating Dancer's Image's $62,000 prize for a previous victory to Coretta Scott King two days after her husband's murder. Fuller said he had anticipated that someone might interfere with his colt and asked Churchill Downs officials to provide extra security before the race, but they denied the request. As of 2008, the Churchill Downs media guide for the Derby still included the official chart showing Dancer's Image as the winner.[6]

By 1986, phenylbutazone was so commonly used that in that year's Kentucky Derby, thirteen of the sixteen entrants were running on the medication.[7]

Later career[edit]

Dancer's Image ran in the 1968 Preakness Stakes, finishing third to Forward Pass. However, he was disqualified again and set back to eighth place, this time for bumping the horse Martins Jig. Continued ankle problems resulted in Dancer's Image being retired after the race.

Stud record[edit]

Dancer's Image was syndicated and sent to stand at stud at Glade Valley Farms in Frederick, Maryland. Eventually his owners sold the colt, and in 1974 he was sent to breeders in Ireland, then in 1979 to Haras du Quesnay at Deauville, France, owned by renowned breeder Alec Head.[8] During his time in Europe he had success with sprinters including the Group One winners Godswalk, Lianga and Saritamer. Dancer's Image was later sent to stand at stud in Japan, where he died at age 27 on December 26, 1992.[9]


Pedigree of Dancer's Image (USA), gray stallion, 1965[1]
Native Dancer (USA)
Polynesian (USA)
Unbreakable Sickle
Blue Glass
Black Polly Polymelian
Black Queen
Geisha (USA)
Discovery Display
Miyako John P Grier
La Chica
Noor's Image (USA)
Noor (GB)
Nasrullah Nearco
Mumyaz Begum
Queen of Baghdad Bahram
Queen of Scots
Little Sphinx (USA)
Challenger Swynford
Sword Play
Khara Kai-Sang
Decree (Family 4-r)[10]


  1. ^ a b "Cannonade pedigree". 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  2. ^ "Native Dancer Horse of Year". St. Joseph News-Press. 1954-11-27. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  3. ^ 1968 official Kentucky Derby chart Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ The New York Times - December 12, 1970 article titled "Kentucky Court Awards First-Place Money in 68 Derby to Dancer's Image"
  5. ^ Thornton, T.D. (May 3, 2008). "Revisiting Dancer's Image". The New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  6. ^ "Questions remain 40 years after Derby disqualification". Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  7. ^ Lexington Herald-Leader - May 4, 1986 article titled "FIRST TWO HORSES ONLY ONES DRUG FREE"
  8. ^ Los Angeles Times - May 1, 1988
  9. ^ Lexington Herald-Leader - December 30, 1992
  10. ^ "Cub Mare - Family 4-r". Thoroughbred Bloodlines. Retrieved 2013-10-30.