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Dancer's Image

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Dancer's Image by Milton C. Toby

"Dancer's Image: The Forgotten Story of the 1968 Kentucky Derby" by Milton C. Toby

History Press

The Bottom Line

The 94th running of the Kentucky Derby is one that will forever be marked by an asterisk. Dancer's Image crossed the line first, but was later found to have had Bute, then an illegal drug, in his urine and was disqualified, handing the victory to runner-up Forward Pass. Toby brings back a story 4 decades old whose details have mostly been forgotten. To a casual follower of racing history, Dancer's Image was disqualified from the win, but the outcome could have been very different. This is an educational read and a real eye-opener for the racing fan who wants to understand just what went wrong in the 94th Derby.
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Pros

  • Detailed account of a story almost forgotten after 40 years
  • Brings back into question the validity of the disqualification
  • Also reminds us that, even by the rules, Dancer's Image should still be the official winner
  • Additional details about the controversial "Derby Doc" Alex Harthill

Cons

  • May not be of interest to all racing fans, such as those who only participate in it for gambling

Description

  • Chapter 1: The Commoner and the King
  • Chapter 2: Thoroughbreds and Blondes
  • Chapter 3: No Good Deed Goes Unpunished
  • Chapter 4: The Derby Doc
  • Chapter 5: The Most Exciting Two Minutes In Sports
  • Chapter 6: Welcome to Oz
  • Chapter 7: An Unbelievable Witness
  • Chapter 8: The Holy Grail
  • Chapter 9: The Usual Suspects
  • Appendices: Stewards' Preliminary Statement, Stewards' Ruling, Kentucky State Racing Commission Order

Guide Review - Dancer's Image

Anybody reading the list of winners on a recent Kentucky Derby mint julep glass will see the name Forward Pass next to the year 1968, with no asterisk or explanation. Forty years later, Dancer's Image, who finished first, has almost been forgotten. In his latest book, Kentucky attorney and equine author Milton Toby retells this amazing story, the result of hours of digging through news archives and legal files, so that contemporary followers of horse racing history can fully understand what happened, including some irregularities in the testing methods, which to this day may draw into question the validity of the disqualification.

Dancer's Image was originally named A.T.'s Image, after owner-breeder Peter Fuller's father Alvan Tufts Fuller, but because the horse was not sound and was going to be sold, Fuller did not want to see his father's namesake race for and lose for another owner. Ironically, at auction Fuller's wife convinced him to buy the colt back. Trainer Lou Cavalaris Jr. managed to keep the horse's bad ankles sound enough to race, leading to an easy win in the Wood Memorial as his final prep for the Derby. Shipped to Churchill Downs, he was treated by the "Derby Doc" Alex Harthill, who recommended the horse be given Bute 6 days before the Derby, long enough for the drug to clear his system to be legal to race. At the time, Bute was legal for training but illegal for racing.

Dancer's Image went on to finish first in the Derby by 1 1/2 lengths over Calumet Farm homebred Forward Pass. Hours later, lab technicians detected Bute in the urine sample. Toby explains which technicians performed which tests on the urine, and how a sample was shipped to Nebraska for a second opinion. Fuller assembled a legal team which sought to demonstrate errors made by the lab, which failed to keep enough urine for retesting, having used up the entire sample between their own testing and those done in Nebraska. The commission affirmed the purse redistribution but added that the ruling did not change the order of finish.

Fuller may have lost the money but he wanted to keep the trophy as the winning owner, as the rules at the time required the purse money be redistributed but did not change the official order of finish. Dancer's Image, under those rules, was still the 1968 Derby winner. However, the racing commission, in a series of secret meetings that Fuller and his lawyers could not attend as they were held at unusual undisclosed locations, ruled that Forward Pass is the Derby winner and ordered the trophy be delivered to Calumet Farm. If not for this ruling, the Derby would never have had a disqualification, just a purse redistribution. The commission contradicted their own rule book by this action. Fuller ran into a "perfect storm" that his high-priced legal team could not overcome.

The 1968 Derby may be the famous race's darkest hour and one that we'd rather forget, but it is a story that needed to be told accurately with no stone left unturned.

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Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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