01/04/2008 1:00AM

Fuller has no plans to fade away at 84


Peter Fuller is 84 years old, and he has not lost one bit of his enthusiasm for breeding and racing Thorough-

breds. He has had his hurrahs during the decades he has been active, and he has had grievous times as well.

No disappointment was greater than when his homebred Dancer's Image became the first and only horse to be disqualified from winning the Kentucky Derby. He was disqualified because he had traces of then-prohibited Butazolidin in his system. That was 1968, and it took years of litigation before the disqualification was made official.

"That would not happen today," he said via phone from his North Hampton, N.H., residence. "They have changed the medication rules since those days."

A Fuller family triumph did come in 1985 when his homebred Mom's Command won an Eclipse Award as the nation's best 3-year-old filly. She won it carrying an apprentice jockey named Abigail Fuller, one of Fuller's seven daughters. The frosting on that piece of cake came in 2007 when Mom's Command was elected to racing's Hall of Fame.

"Boy, have I got memories," Fuller said. "Trouble is, at my age, I sometimes have trouble remembering them."

Fuller says that he can't recall all the stakes winners he has bred, bought, and raced over the years. Nowadays, he keeps 20 mares at Bill and Annabel Murphy's Elangeni Farm in Ocala, Fla. Together they have bred and raced several stakes winners.

Fuller's lifetime interests have been many, ranging from a stint as an amateur boxer to various kinds of horsepower. His father operated Boston's largest General Motors dealership. When asked if he ever had thoughts of retiring, he responded with: "What else am I going to do? Too many of my old friends and colleagues, those who are still breathing, just sit around doing nothing, just fading away. Not me!"

Fuller's eight children have, collectively, 17 offspring.

"I have horses with my son-in-law Mike Catalano," he said. "He's at Tampa Bay Downs and is doing well there. Mike's training I'vegottabeme - he's by Albert the Great - and he's won 4 of 7 races for me. Ned Allard - he's been with me a long, long time - trains for me as well."

When asked how the game has changed over the decades, Fuller paused and said: "It's really become a rich man's game. Stud fees keep going up, and it costs so much more to breed a horse and keep it in training than it used to cost. I know purses have gone up, but the daily costs, I think, have gone up much more relative to average purses."

The disqualification of Dancer's Image from first to last in the 1968 Kentucky Derby is an emotional pain that still resonates. He says that he still feels bad for trainer Lou Cavalaris Jr., who developed and trained Dancer's Image and with whom he still chats from time to time.

Fuller recalled a meeting at Saratoga many years ago with Lucille Markey, the owner of Calumet Farm and Forward Pass, who was elevated to first upon the disqualification of Dancer's Image.

"She was in a wheelchair being guided by a burly attendant," Fuller said. "I had never met her and years had passed since the litigation, so I went over to introduce myself. I did not know that she was almost blind. I greeted her and when she asked my name I told her, 'I am Peter Fuller, the owner of Dancer's Image.' She immediately turned away from me and said to her attendant, 'Take me away from this . . .' She never finished the sentence and I never saw her again."

Peter Fuller, at four score and four years, still has sweet dreams of grandeur.

"You know what my goal is now?" he asked. "I want a good turf horse, good enough to take the family, and especially the grandkids, to France for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. I want to win some of those five million bucks that they put up for that race, and then I want to say to all my kids and grandkids, 'We're in Paris, let's go shopping.' "