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Dancer's Image

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Dancer's Image
Dancer's Image at stud in Ireland
SireNative Dancer
DamNoors Image
FoaledApril 10, 1965[1]
CountryUnited States
BreederPeter D. Fuller[1]
OwnerPeter D. 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
Billboard at Runnymede Farm in North Hampton, New Hampshire, featuring Dancer's Image

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


Dancer's Image was a gray horse owned and bred by businessman Peter D. Fuller of Runnymede Farm in North Hampton, New Hampshire, the son of former Massachusetts Governor Alvan T. Fuller. Originally named A.T.'s Image in memory of Fuller's father,[2]: 19  the horse was renamed Dancer's Image in preparation for sale at auction in February 1967, but Fuller ended up retaining ownership.[2]: 21  The colt was trained by Lou Cavalaris Jr. and ridden in the Derby by jockey Bobby Ussery. Dancer's Image's sire was Native Dancer, who won the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes, and was voted the United States Horse of the Year for 1954[3] 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.[4]

1968 Kentucky Derby[edit]

Dancer's Image was plagued by sore ankles during his career. On the Sunday prior to the 1968 Kentucky Derby, his handlers had a veterinarian give him a dose of phenylbutazone, a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) 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 veterinarian and handlers believed the medication would clear his system in time for the Derby.

On Saturday, May 4, Dancer's Image won the Kentucky Derby, but was disqualified after traces of phenylbutazone were discovered in the mandatory post-race urinalysis. The disqualification was announced on Tuesday, May 7, with second-place finisher Forward Pass declared the winner and Dancer's Image moved to last.[5] The controversy filled the sporting news of media outlets in North America and was a cover story for Sports Illustrated,[6] which referred to it as "the year's major sports story."[7]

The next disqualification of a Kentucky Derby winner happened in 2019, when Maximum Security was disqualified for impeding the progress of several other horses.[8]

1968 Preakness Stakes[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.

Kentucky Derby aftermath[edit]

Fuller and the horse's handlers filed an appeal of the disqualification, as they believed someone else may have been motivated to give the colt another dose of phenylbutazone. 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.[9] That decision was overturned on appeal in April 1972 by the Kentucky Court of Appeals in Kentucky State Racing Comm'n v. Fuller, 481 S.W.2d 298 (Ky. 1972).

Controversy and speculation still surround the incident, and in 2008 The New York Times called it "the most controversial Kentucky Derby ever".[10] 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.[11]

Legalized in 1974 by the Kentucky Racing Commission,[12] phenylbutazone was so commonly used by 1986 that thirteen of the sixteen entrants in that year's Kentucky Derby were running on the medication.[13]

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.[14] 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.[15]


Pedigree of Dancer's Image (USA), gray stallion, 1965[16]
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
Mumtaz Begum
Queen of Baghdad Bahram
Queen of Scots
Little Sphinx (USA)
Challenger Swynford
Sword Play
Khara Kai-Sang
Decree (Family 4-r)[17]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "Horse Profile – Dancer's Image (MD)". equibase.com. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  2. ^ a b Toby, Milton C. (2011). Dancer's Image: The Forgotten Story of the 1968 Kentucky Derby. The History Press. ISBN 1609490959.
  3. ^ "Native Dancer Horse of Year". St. Joseph News-Press. 1954-11-27. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
  4. ^ 1968 official Kentucky Derby chart Archived 2011-07-23 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Hackett, George W. (May 8, 1968). "K-Derby's Dancer Disqualified". The Tampa Tribune. AP. p. 19. Retrieved May 5, 2019 – via newspapers.com.
  6. ^ "May 20, 1968 Issue". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  7. ^ Tower, Whitney (May 20, 1968). "It Was a Bitter Pill". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved May 5, 2019 – via si.com/vault.
  8. ^ "Country House wins Derby at 65-1; Maximum Security DQ'd following objection". ESPN. May 4, 2019. Retrieved May 4, 2019.
  9. ^ The New York Times - December 12, 1970 article titled "Kentucky Court Awards First-Place Money in 68 Derby to Dancer's Image"
  10. ^ Thornton, T.D. (May 3, 2008). "Revisiting Dancer's Image". The New York Times. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  11. ^ "Questions remain 40 years after Derby disqualification". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2016-12-21.
  12. ^ Christine, Bill (May 1, 1988). "THE 1968 KENTUCKY DERBY : THE VICTORY THAT WASN'T : Dancer's Image, Who Finished First, Was Disqualified After Positive Test for Illegal Medication". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 5, 2019.
  13. ^ Lexington Herald-Leader - May 4, 1986 article titled "FIRST TWO HORSES ONLY ONES DRUG FREE"
  14. ^ Bill, Christine (May 1, 1988). "THE 1968 KENTUCKY DERBY THE VICTORY THAT WASN'T Dancer's Image, Who Finished First, Was Disqualified After Positive Test for Illegal Medication". Los Angeles Times. p. 3. Archived from the original on 6 March 2016. Retrieved 6 May 2019 – via ProQuest Archiver.
  15. ^ "Disqualified Derby Winner Dies". Lexington Herald-Leader. Newsbank.com. December 30, 1992. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  16. ^ "Dancer's Image pedigree". equineline.com. 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2012-07-20.
  17. ^ "Cub Mare - Family 4-r". Thoroughbred Bloodlines. Retrieved 2013-10-30.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]