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Three Biggest Disappointments in Kentucky Derby History
Credit: Coady Photography

Three Biggest Disappointments in Kentucky Derby History

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1. Dancer’s Image (1968)

The 1968 Kentucky Derby (G1) is regarded as one of the most controversial in the history of the prestigious competition. Dancer’s Image won the famous American race, but the Lou Cavalaris trained horse was later disqualified after he was found to have used phenylbutazone (a common anti-inflammatory medication). 

The controversy continued for many years, with the owner Peter Fuller firmly believing that he had been a victim of foul play. Fuller and the horse’s handlers continued to fight their case in court for many years. 

Now the drug’s usage has been legalized, albeit in small dosages, at various race tracks in the United States. 

Dancer’s Image, who won the 1968 Wood Memorial Stakes, became the first horse in history to secure the Kentucky Derby and then get disqualified. 

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2. Native Dancer (1953)

Native Dancer, who sired Kentucky Derby disappointment Dancer’s Image, was an immensely gifted racehorse. The William Winfrey trained horse gave a stunning performance from the very beginning of his career. He was named the Horse of the Year as a juvenile, which was quite a remarkable feat for any racehorse. 

Native Dancer was a heavy favourite for the 1953 Kentucky Derby. He managed to keep an undefeated run before the prestigious race and looked like a formidable threat. However, after a troubled trip, the Gray Ghost only managed to finish second, with Dark Star pulling off the upset victory at odds of 25-1. 

Native Dancer went on to win the Preakness Stakes (G1) and the Belmont Stakes (G1). The amazing horse didn’t lose any other race until his retirement. By the end of his career, he had managed an incredible 21 victories from 22 starts. 

3. Holy Bull (1994) 

Horses tend to either love Churchill Downs or just hate it completely. And in the case of Holy Bull, it looked that he hated the surface. 

After winning the Florida Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes, the Warren Croll trained horse entered the race as a heavy favourite. However, he gave a dismal performance that day on the track, which had become sloppy due to heavy rain. Holy Bull never looked like winning and finished a dismal 12th in the race.

After that defeat, the champion thoroughbred racehorse went on to win his next 6 races before suffering a career-ending injury in 1995.

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