North Hampton, New Hampshire’s Role in One of the Strangest Sports Scandals Ever
When you hear the phrase “steroid scandal,” your mind likely goes two places: Major League Baseball and professional wrestling.
In baseball, home run records are forever tainted, fair or not. Such is the case with David Ortiz’s single season Red Sox franchise record. In wrestling, steroids nearly drove one of New England’s biggest companies out of business in the '90s.
But what if you heard one of the most infamous alleged users was from North Hampton, New Hampshire, and made the cover of Sports Illustrated? And enjoyed eating grass?
THE PRIDE OF NORTH HAMPTON
Bred by noted New Hampshire businessman Peter Fuller in the easygoing, peaceful town of North Hampton, Dancer’s Image wasn’t as limber as its name suggests. The horse suffered from leg injuries throughout its storied career, giving his owner reason to worry as the 1968 Kentucky Derby approached.
So, the horse’s trainer injected it with a drug called phenylbutazone, an anti-inflammatory which is, in fact, non-steroidal. Still, drugs of any kind were a faux pas to the gang at Churchill downs. So, the Fuller clan moved forward under the assumption the drug would pass through the horse prior to the race.
Sure enough, North Hampton’s own Dancer Image won the 1968 Kentucky Derby. But after the race had finished came the bad news.
Dancer’s Image failed its urine test and was disqualified. Ironically, a second-place finisher named Forward Pass was then named the winner three days later.
And the story was just beginning.
In 1968, a drug scandal in sports was still major news, hence the Sports Illustrated coverage. Fuller sued, at first winning, and later losing an appeal. Until his death in 2012, Fuller maintained the Dancer’s Image had won the 1968 Kentucky Derby, as noted in a 2008 New York Times feature.
In fact, if you drive by Runnymede Farm – which is currently on the market – you’ll still see a billboard referring to Dancer’s Image as the winner. The Times reported that Fuller suspected being set up due to his reputation as a Civil Rights advocate.
But the ruling would stand: Dancer's Image would forever be a "brief" first-place finisher on horseracing's grandest stage.
Dancer’s Image was sent to stud in Europe and Japan before dying in 1992.
Phenylbutazone was later legalized, and the Los Angeles Times would note that it's commonly used by horses in the Derby. But Peter Fuller and his prized Dancer’s Image would never receive their full recognition from the Blue Grass State, or an apology.
And that’s not the only local legend associated with Peter Fuller. His famous mansion along Ocean Boulevard in North Hampton is believed to have been very close to being purchased by a recently divisive Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.