Gate Dancer's reputation for bullying opponents and being overly physical has made him one of horse racing's great intimidators.
Getting Gate Dancer to run straight was so taxing for trainer Jack Van Berg that he made the 3-year-old colt a pioneer in equine fashion. Going into the Preakness Stakes, Van Berg fitted Gate Dancer with blinkers, a burr bit and a purple hood.
Gate Dancer managed to lug in only minimally and won the Preakness by 1 1/2 lengths. In his two races previous to the Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park, Gate Dancer showed superb control in winning the Omaha Gold Cup and Louisiana Super Derby.
But in today's Classic, both Gate Dancer and the winner were Wild Again.
Jockey Laffit Pincay Jr. allowed Gate Dancer to trail the field early in his bid for the $1.35 million winner's share, then advanced him gradually along the backstretch and into the turn.
He boldly blew past opponents on the far outside, moving into third place entering the stretch. But as he reached the leaders on the outside, Gate Dancer lurched to his left and into Slew o' Gold, who then brushed front-running Wild Again.
Gate Dancer was second crossing the wire, but penalty flags were flying. A stewards' inquiry resulted in his disqualification to third place.
"When I asked him to run, he gave me a big move," said Pincay, one of the nation's best jockeys. "I thought I was going to win easy. Then he started leaning on the horse inside me.
"I had the stick in my left hand, and I was showing it to him. But the way he holds his head so high, it's hard to get him straight. Once he hit (Slew o' Gold), I knew we were in trouble. In the Super Derby, he ran perfectly straight."
Angel Cordero Jr., astride Slew o' Gold, said the contact did not cost him a victory.
"When I moved to (Wild Again), I thought I'd go right by him," Cordero said. "By the time the outside horse bumped me, my horse kind of stopped running."
Said Wild Again jockey Pat Day, "I know Gate Dancer has the reputation of lugging in. I was hoping I could control my horse enough that it wouldn't affect him.
"I don't know how all that contact affected Slew o' Gold. He had every opportunity to get by me the length of the stretch.
"After the race, Angel looked over at me and shrugged," Day said. "At the time, there weren't any numbers on the board. I wasn't even sure who won the race." Neither was Vincent Timphony, Wild Again's trainer.
"I couldn't tell what went on in the stretch," he said. "I knew Gate Dancer was moving in. I was just praying to God that they didn't take my number down."
No. 2 remained atop the tote board, and Wild Again's career earnings grew suddenly to almost $2.1 million.
Jockey Chris McCarron, who led briefly astride Precisionist but wound up seventh, said, "All I got was a hind view of all the bumping between the first three horses."
Gate Dancer drew a sizable penalty for unnecessary roughness; the disqualification cost owner Kenneth Opstein $351,000. CAPTION: Picture, Outstandingly comes in second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Distaff but is destined for $450,000 winner's share on disqualification of Fran's Valentine. UPI