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Great Racehorse: Ruffian, Queen of the Fillies.
The Filly That Would Be Queen
I have not thought about Ruffian for years because it is a painful memory. I know some will say she was just a horse but as a young girl she was more than that. As I had become a racehorse fan at a young age I kept up with what was going on in horse racing. Since Ruffian was a filly that made her even greater draw for me since she was a girl and us girls have to stick together. So, here is the story of a great racehorse and for many of us will not be forgotten. Ruffian was one of a kind and taken too soon. It makes me wonder what she would have done if on that July day she had smooth sailing around the track and beaten Foolish Pleasure. I know she would have won because she was a true champ and she never backed down. Here's to Ruffian.
Ruffian was foaled in 1972 at Claiborne Farms and was a dark bay almost coal black filly. She was very tall and stood at almost 17 hands. She was bred by Stuart Janney, Jr and Barbara Phipps Janney owners of Locust Hill Farm. Ruffian shared some of the same lineage as Secretariat through Bold Ruler. She was the foal of Shenanigans and was sired by Reviewer. Her grandsire was the great racehorse Bold Ruler and damsire was Native Dancer who was an exceptional mare. Ruffian was destined for greatness but unfortunately it came at a price. A moment set in time and many fans will not forget when it came time for her to pay up.
Queen of the Fillies
As a two year old she was voted the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Two-Year-Old Filly in 1974 and after that was known by her nickname “Queen of the Fillies”. The following year she won the Filly Triple Crown called the Triple Tiara. Ruffian was undefeated in her first ten races covering a distance from 1.5 miles with an average winning margin of 8 1/3 lengths. Secretariats trainer Lucien Laurin once said, Ruffian may even be better than Secretariat. After ten races her eleventh race would be the end of a great racehorse.
One fateful day Ruffian would match up with another legend, Foolish Pleasure. The match race was one of the biggest races dubbing girl against boy and attracting fans who had never watched a horse race. These two would meet in a match at Belmont Park in July of 1975. She led the champion colt through a quarter-mile before her front leg broke in two places. Jockey Jacinto Vasquez fought the filly for fifty yards before bringing her to a halt. Some say she just didn't want to quit and wanted to keep racing even though she had broken her leg. The crowd watched in horror as the great filly's hoof flopped around like a rag. The racing community and fans were heartbroken as Ruffian broke down.
Ruffian was rushed off the track where a team of veterinarians tried to save her. She had made it through the many hours of surgery but when she awoke Ruffian thrashed about. In doing this she not only ripped open the leg that she broke but she had hurt herself in other areas. Not being successful in calming her down Ruffian was euthanized. From this tragedy, today there are precautions taken when dealing with a horse coming out of anesthesia. There were improvements in the type of medication given to horses that sustain life threatening injuries. Many in the racing community did not want her tragic end to have been in vain and that something good could come out of it. She was much beloved and is considered to be one of the greatest fillies to have ever graced a track.
Ruffian (April 17, 1972 - July 7, 1975)
Ruffian is buried near a flagpole in the infield of Belmont Park. When she was alive, her trainer always put her in one of his old blankets. When she was buried, he buried her in two of his good blankets, because she deserved them. She was buried facing toward the finish line as all great champions should. Hundreds showed up to pay their respects as she was laid to rest.
Ruffian was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1976.
#35 Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century.
Named “Filly of the Century”.
Sport Illustrated put her as the only non-human on their list of the top 100 female athletes of the century, ranking her 53rd.
2007 a TV Film: Ruffian was released.
In May 26, 2009 at Belmont Park the Ruffian Equine Medical Center opened and was dedicated in her honor.
I am hoping with the new movie "Secretariat" that there will be more interest in horse racing and the great athletes that they are.