Updated on 05/14/2012 10:46PM

Peter Fuller dies at 89; owned Dancer's Image, disqualified from first in Kentucky Derby

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Peter Fuller, the only owner of a Kentucky Derby winner to be disqualified after finishing first, died on Monday at the age of 89, according to multiple reports.

Fuller, a New England car dealer whose father was a United States Senator and governor of Massachusetts, was the owner of Dancer’s Image, who won the 1968 Kentucky Derby but was disqualified from the race after postrace drug tests revealed the presence of phenylbutazone, the popular painkiller, which, at the time, was illegal to appear in postrace tests.

Fuller appealed the ruling, and in 1970, a Kentucky Court reversed the disqualification and awarded Fuller first-place money. However, that ruling was overturned in 1972 by the Kentucky Supreme Court, and Dancer’s Image remains the only horse to be disqualified from first in the race. (There has been only one other disqualification in the 138 runnings of the Kentucky Derby, when Gate Dancer was dropped from fourth to fifth for interference in 1984.)

Fuller, who was active in liberal politics in the Boston area, often said that the drug-test result was fabricated because of opposition in Kentucky to the civil-rights movement. Just one month before the Derby, Fuller had donated the $62,000 purse from Dancer’s Image’s win in the Wood Memorial to the widow of Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King.

While the controversy surrounding Dancer’s Image made that horse the most prominent to be associated with Fuller, his most accomplished horse was undoubtedly Mom’s Command, a homebred who swept the New York filly triple crown in 1985 and was named that year’s champion 3-year-old filly. Mom’s Command was ridden for her entire career by Fuller’s daughter, Abby.

Mom’s Command won 11 of her 16 starts and was retired in the fall of 1985 with $902,972 in earnings. She was voted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2007.

Correction: A previous version of this article misidentified the horse who was disqualified in the 1984 Kentucky Derby. Gato del Sol won the Kentucky Derby in 1982; Gate Dancer was dropped from fourth place to fifth in 1984.