Forward Pass (horse)

Forward Pass (horse)

Thoroughbred racehorse infobox
horsename = Forward Pass

caption =
sire = On-And-On
grandsire = Nasrullah
dam = Princess Turia
damsire = Heliopolis
sex = Stallion
foaled = 1965
country = USA flagicon|USA
colour = Bay
breeder = Calumet Farm
owner = Calumet Farm
trainer = Henry Forrest
record = 23: 10-4-2
earnings = $678,231
race = Flash Stakes (1967)
Hibiscus Stakes (1968)
Everglades Stakes (1968)
Florida Derby (1968)
Blue Grass Stakes (1968)
Kentucky Derby (1968)
Preakness Stakes (1968)
American Derby (1968)
awards = U.S. Co-Champion 3-Yr-Old Colt (1968)
honours = Forward Pass Stakes at Arlington Park
updated= October 31, 2006

Forward Pass (1965-1980) was an American Thoroughbred Champion racehorse who is the only horse in the history of the Kentucky Derby to have been declared the winner as the result of a disqualification.

Owned and bred by Calumet Farm, the colt was trained by Henry Forrest. Racing at age three, he won several graded stakes races including three very important U.S. Triple Crown prep races: the Everglades Stakes, the Florida Derby and the Blue Grass Stakes. The betting favorite going into the 1968 Kentucky Derby, Forward Pass finished second but winner Dancer's Image was disqualified to last place after traces of phenylbutazone were discovered in the mandatory post-race urinalysis. As a result, Forward Pass was declared the winner. The controversy over the first (and still the only) disqualification of a Derby winner filled the sporting news of every media outlet in North America and was the cover story for Sports Illustrated magazine who referred to it as the sports story of the year. It was revealed that Dancer's Image had been plagued by sore ankles and on the Sunday prior to the Kentucky Derby his handlers had a veterinarian give the horse a phenylbutazone tablet, a pain killer commonly used to relieve inflammation of the joints which was legal at many race tracks in the United States but not at Churchill Downs. However, it was still a legitimate practice as the medication would dissipate from the horse's system during the six days before the Derby. When the horse's post-Derby urinalysis revealed the phenylbutazone, his shocked owner and handlers believed someone else may have been motivated to give the colt another dose of the drug and they filed an appeal of the disqualification. The Kentucky State Racing Commission examined the matter and ordered distribution of the purse with first money to Forward Pass. Their decision was upheld in April 1972, by Kentucky's highest court in case #481 S. W. 298. In a subsequent decision, the Commission ordered that Forward Pass be considered the winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby and that his owners were to receive the Derby's gold cup.

Any doubt about the ability of Forward Pass ended with his six length victory in the much anticipated rematch with Dancer's Image in the Preakness Stakes. As the third leg of the U.S. Triple Crown approached, the Derby controversy raged on. A victory by Forward Pass in the Belmont Stakes would make him the first Triple Crown winner in twenty years and many fans, experts, and racing commentators felt he would be an illegitimate champion. In the Belmont, Forward Pass finished second by 1 1/2 lengths to Greentree Stable's colt, Stage Door Johnny, a horse who had not raced in the Derby or the Preakness but who had been specifically bred and conditioned for racing at longer distances.

Despite his outstanding performances in 1968, only one of three polls voted Forward Pass Champion 3-Yr-Old Male honors. The other two organizations voted for Stage Door Johnny. Retired at the end of the 1968 racing season to Calumet Farm, Forward Pass was sent to stand at stud at a breeding farm in Japan. He died there in 1980.

Even today, controversy and speculation still surrounds the 1968 Kentucky Derby and "The New York Times" [] calls the ruling the "most controversial decision in all of Triple Crown racing." The use of phenylbutazone was subsequently approved by Churchill Downs in recognition of medical research that showed it does not enhance a horse's performance.


* [ Forward Pass' pedigree and racing stats]
* [ 1968 Kentucky Derby official website]
* [ New York Times website on the 1968 Kentucky Derby]

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