After last week’s spotlight on Winning Colors, one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby, several readers requested a feature on the greatest filly of the 20th century, Ruffian.
Top photo: Wikimedia Commons
Many of us, when we think of Ruffian, recall her last race in 1975, a match against that year’s Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure. To the horror of 50,000 spectator and an estimated television audience of 20 million, Ruffian was a furlong in and leading by half a length when both sesamoid bones in her right foreleg snapped. Jockey Jacinto Vasquez tried to pull her up but the filly wouldn’t stop. She went on running, causing irreparable damage to her leg, and was later euthanized. Ruffian is buried near a flag pole in the infield of Belmont Park, the site of her final race, with her nose pointed toward the finish line.
Instead of dwelling on this tragic turn of events, however, today we’d like to celebrate Ruffian’s life. Ruffian, sometimes referred to by her nickname “Queen of the Fillies,” won the Eclipse Award for Outstanding Two-Year-Old Filly in 1974 and was undefeated in her first 10 races. She was on the lead at every point of call in every race she ever ran. She set a new stakes record in each of the eight stakes races which she won. She had also equaled two track records.
One of her greatest accomplishments was claiming the Filly Triple Crown (the “triple tiara”) by winning the Coach Club American Oaks. Although sad because it was her last complete race, it is also one of her most shining moments, securing her place in history as one of the best racehorses–filly or colt–of her time.
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