Updated on 05/14/2012 10:46PM

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


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.

Ned Daly More than 1 year ago
Today's Boston Globe obituary showed Peter Fuller in the ring in a charity bout with Muhammed Ali. The last time I saw Fuller he was shadow boxing in the steam room at the Harvard Club. He must have been 65 years old and he had perfect technique. Rooted to the floor, short punches, all his weight behind them. Any one of his punches could have felled an ox. Very classy guy, a real loss to racing and of course to his family.
Robin Dawson More than 1 year ago
This whole sorry affair smacks of Kentucky elitism, and the shoddiness of moving the goalposts, re Bute. And it didn't help that Dr. Harthill was public enemy #1, as far as the hardboots were concerned. So its somewhat ironic that, today, Kentucky is one of the most liberal in this regard. Whatever, I know that Lou Cavalaris (trainer) refuses to discuss this matter to this day. Quel dommage and what a black-eye for racing in the good ol' USA...as if it needed another one!
Fred Reardon More than 1 year ago
People often forget that out President, JFK, was assassinated in 1963. In the USA! Our President was murdered in Dallas, TX. Against that backdrop; 1968 was our most tumultuous year. Vietnam was at it’s worst. Martin Luther King was assassinated in April, and RFK was gunned down in June. So with that in mind, the DQ of a race horse in a horse race doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Some people are slow to change, and nowhere is that more true than in the Blue Grass state. So I tend to lean to the view of the jock that crossed the wire first, Bobby Ussery, who said: “They made the race official and they don't want to give me credit for the win. If I would have been DQ'd in the race, then you got DQ'd. Once they made the race official, it had no bearing on me." And it has no bearing on me, who at age 12, saw Dancer’s Image win the Derby. Pete Fuller was class all the way. So many others are croppers. RIP.
himmelle More than 1 year ago
Gato del Sol won the 1982 Derby. He could not have been DQed in 1984.
chuck More than 1 year ago
Paul McCann More than 1 year ago
Gato Del Sol won 1982 Derby, Gate Dancer was the horse Disqualified in 1984.
himmelle More than 1 year ago
Gato del Sol won the 1982 Derby. He could not have been DQed in 1984 unless he was making history by running as a 5 year old
Paul McCann More than 1 year ago
RIP in Mr. Fulller, You won the race no matter what the test said. Matt Hegarty you need to check your Facts before writing them down.Gate Dancer was the Horse Disqualified from 4th to 5th in the 1984 Derby, Gato Del Sol was our 1982 Derby Winner.
raymond More than 1 year ago
Condolances to the Fuller family. With all heartfelt respect to a consumate professional who always had time for those who stop to speak with him. A gentlemans, gentleman.
james More than 1 year ago
has anyone ever said why they only requested samples from two horses and then awarded first place to a horse who wasn't tested at all? Supposedly Harthilel gave him an injection 6 days out and it was supposed to only stay in the system for 3 days. Why doesn't DRF say that Fuller won his case only to have it overturned by a higher court? The whole story deserves more treatment.
james More than 1 year ago
my bad. they did mention he won his initial case.