Dancer's Image an American Thoroughbred racehorse who is the only winner in the history of the Kentucky Derby to have been disqualified. Owned and bred by millionaire 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.
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 important Grade I Wood Memorial Stakes. However, for the Kentucky Derby he was a second choice among bettors to Calumet Farm's Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes winner, Forward Pass.
Plagued by sore ankles, on the Sunday prior to the Derby, the handlers of Dancer's Image had a veterinarian give him a phenylbutazone tablet, a pain killer commonly used to relieve inflammation of the joints which was legal at many race tracks in the United States but not at Churchill Downs. However, it was still a legitimate practice as the medication would dissipate from the horse's system during the six days before the Derby. Forty years after the disqualification, owner Peter Fuller still believes 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 $62,000 prize for a previous victory to Coretta Scott King two days after her husband's murder.
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 who referred to it as the sports story of the year. 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. Their decision was upheld in April 1972, by Kentucky's highest court in Kentucky State Racing Comm'n v. Fuller, 481 S.W. 2d 298 (Ky. 1972).
In a subsequent decision, the Commission ordered that Forward Pass be considered the winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby and that his owners were to receive the Derby's gold cup. Controversy and speculation still surrounds the incident even today and the New York Times calls the ruling the "most controversial decision in all of Triple Crown racing." The use of phenylbutazone was subsequently approved by Churchill Downs in recognition of medical research that showed it does not enhance a horse's performance.
The official Kentucky Derby web site still lists Dancer's Image as having finished last, in 14th place.
Dancer's Image ran in the 1968 Preakness Stakes, finishing third to Forward Pass. Unfortunately, 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 and eventually his owner sold the colt to Haras du Quesnay at Deauville, France owned by renowned breeder Alec Head. Dancer's Image was later sent to stand at stud in Japan, where he died at age 27 on December 24, 1992.
Dancer's Image was syndicated and sent to stand at stud at the Maryland division of Windfields Farm.