Should I Buy A New House At 50 Years Old 50 Years Ago: "1968 Was a Horrific Year"

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50 Years Ago: "1968 Was a Horrific Year"

1968 was a terrible year

Horses are big business in Kentucky, and even school kids knew about the controversy in Louisville 50 years ago. It started with horse racing on the first Saturday in May as far as we knew.

Kentucky Governor Louis Nunn and presidential candidate Richard Nixon watched from the stands. Image Dancer came last, 14 lengths back to pass 13 horses and cross the wire a length and a half ahead of Forward Pass. Nunn laughed as Nixon dramatically tore his losing ticket in half.

But Nixon may have been a little hasty, depending on which horse he chose. Three days after the race, Churchill Downs stewards ordered Boston car dealer Peter Fuller to return the trophy and winning purse and recognized Forward Pass as the winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby. Post-race testing revealed that Dancer’s Image’s blood sample contained phenylbutazone.

It is an anti-inflammatory pain reliever that is now commonly used when horses are suffering from swollen joints. But in 1968 it was illegal at Kentucky racetracks. Fuller’s vet prescribed him in training but gave him six days to clear the horse’s bleeding before the race. Fuller, his veterinarian and the horse’s trainer could not explain why Dancer’s Image still had phenylbutazone in his system on race day.

I was a weird 8th grader who skimmed racing form past performance charts and memorized a lot of racing trivia. But we were also a politically conscious family. My father ran for the House of Representatives for McCarthy’s anti-war Clean Gene Party in Kentucky’s 1st Congressional District. Bobby Kennedy campaigned for the presidency across the river in Indiana.

Martin Luther King was shot exactly one month before the 1968 Derby, but he had been in Louisville a year earlier to help local blacks, led by his brother ED King, protest housing discrimination.

Locals had disrupted a race at Churchill Downs the previous year and wanted to disrupt the 1967 Derby, but King convinced them to hold protests downtown because of the potential chaos at the track.

In April 1968, Fuller entered Dancer’s Image in the build-up to the Derby, the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack in New York.

When his horse won, Fuller donated the purse to Coretta Scott King, who was recently widowed. I saw two different numbers – $62,000 and $77,415. It was a lot of money in 1968 dollars anyway. He didn’t advertise it, but it was common knowledge at the track and the race announcer mentioned it on TV.

The gift made friends and enemies for Fuller. There was hate mail. There were anonymous death threats. A mysterious fire broke out in one of his stables. So he asked Churchill Downs management to put in extra security. They refused.

Fuller was a pretty demanding guy. He was a former Marine and the son of a Republican ex-governor. His father was one of the richest men in America, and Fuller himself was no hunchback.

Growing up in a family with 11 domestic servants, Fuller got used to what he liked. It was customary to provide four tickets to the owners of the Derby horses. He demanded 50.

The cocky, tough Yankee may have alienated the courtly Southerners he was supposed to be trying to charm. Instead, he spoke condescendingly about “cattle”.

The bottom line is that he didn’t get extra security from Churchill Downs or hire his own. The security guard at his racing barn, he recalled, was “an old guy in a chair sleeping.”

Fuller later said he believed he had been “set up” that some unknown intruder had entered his horse’s stall to administer the disqualifying drug phenylbutazone. Either that or the blood sample was tampered with.

Fuller appealed the stewards’ decision to the Kentucky Racing Commission and lost. He took his case to court and won in 1970. Dancer’s Image was the winner of the Kentucky Derby again in 1968.

But the state of Kentucky then took that decision to a federal appeals court and won the case against Fuller and Dancers Image. It was final. Fuller said he spent $250,000 on his futile lawsuits.

A billboard at his horse farm in New Hampshire stubbornly boasts that it is the home of Dancer’s Image, winner of the 1968 Kentucky Derby. But this sign is false.

Forward Pass – 1968 Kentucky Derby winner. The colt was no fluke either – he won the Preakness and narrowly missed out on the Triple Crown on June 1 after leading the Belmont until the last sixteenth pole.

Three days later, as the 13-year-olds began their summer vacation, another tragedy struck the real world, the second in two months. so the jumps seemed extremely frivolous.

“Give me your weary, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your rich shore,” wrote the poet Emma Lazarus, addressing the Old World. “Send me these storm-tossed ones. I raise my lamp by the golden door.”

And so the Palestinian emigrant Bishara Sirhan brought his family to America. The poet also called on the Old World to “take care, old lands, of your famous magnificence.” But when Bishara brought his 12-year-old son, Sirhan Sirhan, to California, he imported a monstrous ego and centuries of ancient hatred to his American haven.

The younger Sirhan looked Western, with a pompadour, as a teenager, and even as an adult, he looks like a fine gentleman today. But he testified in court that he killed Bobby Kennedy “with 20 years of intent.” His diary confirmed that he was seething with resentment against Jews and a senator from New York who advocated selling fighter jets to Israel.

He besieged a hotel in Los Angeles where Kennedy and his supporters were watching the results of the primaries. Kennedy won the presidential elections in California and South Dakota on June 4. Incumbent Lyndon Johnson long ago dropped out of the race. There was much hope among Americans who supported the late President John F. Kennedy eight years ago.

As Bobby Kennedy was leaving the party through the hotel kitchen, Sirhan intercepted him and shot him three times: one in the head and two in the back. Like phenylbutazone, Sirhan nullified the victory. And in my mind’s eye I see Richard Nixon picking up the shards of his Derby ticket.

Of course, it’s anyone’s guess how different the world might have been if Bobby Kennedy had been elected president that November instead of Richard Nixon. Like his older brother, he had a penchant for adultery. But he was a practicing Catholic, influenced by Cardinal Spellman. Unlike his younger brother Teddy, he did not try to harmonize public policy with his personal immorality.

If older brother John’s sole nomination to the Supreme Court is any indication. a court consisting of three Bobby Kennedy nominees could have decided Roe v. Wade differently.

Byron White, JFK’s appointment to the court, not only disagreed with Roe, but with all subsequent decisions that applied it as binding precedent. Nixon, unlike JFK, nominated pro-abortion Justices Lewis Powell and Harry Blackmun to the court, as well as pro-abortion Chief Justice Warren Berger.

If Bobby Kennedy, instead of Richard Nixon, had filled those Supreme Court vacancies with justices like Byron White, they might have joined with William Rehnquist and White to form a 5-4 majority to protect the unborn. Tens of millions of American children could be spared the abortion holocaust that followed Roe v. Wade and continues today. Thanks to Sirhan Sirhan and the people who welcomed him to our country, we will never know for sure.

“1968,” Fuller said, “was a terrible year.”

by Bart Stinson

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