The open hearings by the Kentucky State Racing Commission into the Derby drugging case now appear to be postponed indefinitely. That is the conclusion reached by many observers of the complicated legal maneuvers now in progress. The horsemen and lawyers involved are, for the most part, longtime business and racing colleagues, and many are apprehensive about what open hearings would reveal. They would like to postpone such unpleasantness forever.
What has happened is that a racing matter—was Dancer's Image drugged before the Derby and, if so, who did it?—has now been permitted to drift into the realm of the Kentucky State Bar Association. It may well take years of court proceedings to establish whether Peter Fuller should receive the Derby winner's purse of $122,600. If it takes that long to establish what happened to Dancer's Image, the sport of racing will suffer immeasurably.
SPORTS ILLUSTRATED is now able to reveal, from confidential transcripts, one of the more bizarre aspects of this remarkable case. It indicates why the whole affair must be cleared up promptly.
In the week after the Derby, Trainer Lou Cavalaris and his assistant, Robert Barnard, made voluntary statements to agents of the Thoroughbred Racing Protective Bureau, Inc. These were made in the presence of Arthur W. Grafton Sr., attorney for Peter Fuller, and Alvin Schem, Director of Security for Churchill Downs. Two other men were asked by the agents to make statements—Dr. Alex Harthill, who treated Dancer's Image in the week before the Derby, and Trainer Doug Davis, whose horses were stabled in an adjoining barn—but they declined.
Lou Cavalaris made his main point quickly, on the first page of his statement. "I wish to state that I did not give the horse Butazolidin prior to the race," Cavalaris testified, "have no knowledge of how the horse was given Butazolidin or by whom it could have been given to the horse. The only time to my knowledge that the horse was given Butazolidin was Sunday, April 28, 1968, at approximately 10:30 a.m." Not everyone in Barn 24 knew of this treatment, for later on Cavalaris states, "It should be noted here that I had never told Robert Barnard that the horse had been given Butazolidin on Sunday, April 28, 1968." As for Derby Day itself, the trainer adds, "...a muzzle was kept on the horse all day except for the period when he was fed his regular ration of oats at 10:30 a.m."
On Monday, May 6, when the stewards were officially notified that Dancer's Image had raced with Butazolidin in his system, they called Barnard in for questioning and searched Barn 24 as well as Barnard's possessions and his car. This activity around a Derby winner's barn did not go unnoticed. Cavalaris was ordered to appear before the stewards the following morning, Tuesday. But that evening he went back to Barn 24 to look after his horse. He states, "I arrived at the barn at about 7:30 p.m. [Monday] and as I walked past the laboratory of Dr. Harthill, I observed Dr. Harthill and Doug Davis making some white pills into granules and mix the granules into a 1/5th or 1/6th sack of oats. I walked on to my horse's stall and while standing in front of the feed room next to the stall, a trap door in the back of the feed room opened and Doug Davis stuck his head in the opening and then threw the sack into the feed room. At the time I saw Dr. Harthill approach down the shed row and I asked him what was going on. He replied that we were in trouble and had to do something.... I then checked the rest of my feed and upon checking a bag of bran which was better than half full I found it full of white granules mixed into the bran. I tasted the granules and found them to be bitter."
Cavalaris' trip to Barn 24 was apparently preceded by a similar visit by Barnard, who told the TRPB agents that about 7 p.m. "I went directly back to the track, and when I arrived Dr. Harthill was in his laboratory. He was smashing some white tablets in a box using a hammer. I asked him if it was Butazolidin and he said it was. Then Davis arrived and the two placed the crushed Butazolidin on a piece of paper, covered it with another piece of paper and then Davis rolled a bottle over it, crushing it some more.... Davis said that he would distract the guard's attention, which he did, while Dr. Harthill went into the feed room and placed the Butazolidin in the bran. I stood outside the feed room. Then Dr. Harthill went and took the horse's temperature for no apparent reason, other than to make things look good for the guard."
The following morning, Tuesday, May 7, Cavalaris states, " Dr. Harthill admitted they doctored the oats but denied they touched the bran. Harthill said to me we know you were innocent and we're trying to help you. Doug Davis explained he knew about the barn search and heard about the positive report and that was the reason he called me and Dr. Harthill. He said they had a sort of brainstorm to help me because they knew I was innocent and that by putting Butazolidin in the oats they would be helping me. Dr. Harthill denied he put anything in the bran.... I learned later Barnard was present and that he did observe Dr. Harthill put white granules into the bran.... He said he didn't say anything because he thought I was in on the act."
Barnard clarified his role by recalling events that took place about 9 a.m. Tuesday morning. "I showered and when I was getting dressed Mr. Cavalaris came in and asked me if Dr. Harthill had done anything to the bran and I told him about the Butazolidin. He said he appreciated hearing the truth and we then went to Dr. Harthill's laboratory where Mr. Cavalaris again asked the doctor about the bran and again he denied doing anything. Mr. Cavalaris then told Harthill that I had told him about the bran. Harthill then gave me a dirty look and again denied it, although he did subsequently admit it."
Speaking of that confrontation between himself and Dr. Harthill, Cavalaris states: "Now we've got the whole truth, they tampered with the bran also. I then faced Dr. Harthill and asked him why he lied to me.... Dr. Harthill did not reply.... After a long silence Dr. Harthill asked me how long I have known him. I replied about seven or eight days. He then said why would I want to harm you. I told him I did not know."