Bobby Ussery was a Hall of Fame jockey who won the Kentucky Derby on Proud Clarion in 1967.
Bobby Ussery’s legacy
Ussery won dozens of major races in the 1950s, ‘60s, and ‘70s. His first major wins came in the mid-1950s, as he won such races as the Canadian International Stakes, the Narragansett Special, and the Champlain Handicap. In 1960, Ussery won the Preakness Stakes aboard Bally Ache, and he also rode Bally Ache to second place at the Kentucky Derby. He would achieve his first Derby win in 1967, though not on the horse he had intended to ride – Reflected Glory, his original horse, had to withdraw from the race due to injury. He went on to ride Proud Clarion to victory.
Ussery came in first again at the 1968 Kentucky Derby, riding Dancer’s Image, but the title was taken from him after the horse tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug phenylbutazone. It was a controversial decision, as phenylbutazone was legal at some tracks, but it had not yet been approved at Churchill Downs, even though it is not a performance-enhancing drug. Today, both Dancer’s Image and Forward Pass, who was named the winner after the disqualification, are listed at Churchill Downs as that year’s Derby winners.
Though Ussery didn’t complete the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing, never having won the Belmont Stakes, he is considered one of horse racing’s greats, having won 3,611 races by the time of his 1974 retirement. In 1980, he was honored with induction into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
“As far as I’m concerned, I won the Derby in 1968 because they made the race official. What they did with Dancer’s Image was another thing. It had no reflection on me.” —from a 2019 interview for the Associated Press
Tributes to Bobby Ussery
Full obituary: The New York Times