RUFFIAN FLASHBACK: 25-YEAR MATCH RACE ANNIVERSARY (SportsCenter) w/BONUS FOOTAGE
It was right in the wake of SECRETARIAT's Triple Crown and all of a sudden this regal, glamorous standout of a filly comes along with blazing speed. She was just monstrous and as game an athlete as you could possibly expect. There was nothing ordinary about her - her looks, temperament, attitude - THIS IS THE STORY OF RUFFIAN with the help of those closest to her plus some of the turf's most respected journalists and historians.
Bred and owned by Stuart and Barbara Janney for their Locust Hill Farm in Maryland, RUFFIAN was foaled on April 17, 1972, at Claiborne Farm by REVIEWER (BOLD RULER) out of SHENANIGANS (NATIVE DANCER) and was turned over to veteran trainer, FRANK WHITLEY, as a two-year-old. She made immediate impressions in her first start on May 22, 1974, in one of the most awesome debuts ever seen in the U.S....she crushed the field by 15 lengths equaling the Belmont track record of 1:03 for 5-1/2 furlongs. She captured four more races that year appearing to get faster with each start and was voted Champion two-year-old Filly. She won by a combined total of 46 lengths in those first five races; her horizon seemed to be boundless.
In the Spring of 1975 she returned to the track well muscled in brilliant form and won five more races including New York's Filly Triple Crown. It wasn't that her competition was nothing, it was that RUFFIAN was too much. With no other filly in America remotely able to compete with her on equal terms, a 1-1/4 mile $350,000 match race was proposed by the NYRA against that years Kentucky Derby winner, FOOLISH PLEASURE - both parties agreed. JACINTO VASQUEZ, who was the regular rider for both of these exceptional racers, was placed in the difficult position of selecting between the two and opted to ride the filly. BRAULIO BAEZA was aboard FOOLISH PLEASURE.
On Sunday, July 6, 1975, with over 50,000 fans in attendance and another 18 million viewers watching national television, RUFFIAN, the 5-2 favorite stepped onto the track for her date with destiny. The gates burst open and RUFFIAN broke awkwardly...FOOLISH PLEASURE came out like a bullet in front but RUFFIAN quickly found her stride and in a few yards was a head in front. They raced the first quarter in 22.2 seconds brushing against each other twice. The pace was ferocious. She increased her margin to a 1/2-length approaching the turn and the crowd was cheering loudly as the race appeared to be meeting their greatest expectations. It seemed they would hit the 1/2-mile pole in record time...but RUFFIAN never got there. With less than four furlongs of the race run, both jockeys heard the ankle go - a sound later described by VASQUEZ as, "a stick breaking" and RUFFIAN kept running over 70 yards on three legs.
The crowd could see her bobbling and they watched stunned as FOOLISH PLEASURE suddenly was alone and opening up a huge lead. The big filly suddenly pulled up and the rider quickly dismounted. Millions of eyes at the race and in front of tv's watched in horror as this great racehorse strained to go on, to get back in the race, to be first again but the filly stood helplessly with her leg dangling in the air. She was loaded into a horse ambulance and brought back to her stall, still in shock. X-rays revealed both sesamoids had been shattered and what followed from then into the wee hours of the morning was a pitched battle to save RUFFIAN's life. A delicate operation was performed during which time her breathing ceased...on two occasions she was revived from the dead.
RUFFIAN's indomitable spirit helped make her great on the track but it also contained the seeds of her destruction. After emerging from anesthesia she lashed out violently breaking the cast that held her leg together. She was tremendously in pain with new hemorrhages setting in and at 2:20 A.M., July 7, 1975, her owner Stuart Janney, gave the authority to put her out of her misery.
Nothing can take away the horror of seeing a horse break down; it's like seeing a masterpiece destroyed. Behind a wave of sadness and regret came a strong re-analysis of match races. Somehow something great had been on this earth and now it was gone...like the athlete dying young, it's an unfinished story. And so the wound stays open and the tremendous sense of pain and sadness remain. While RUFFIAN's match race was intended to spur interest in horse racing, her death had the opposite effect. The millions who watched her breakdown on national television would never look at Thoroughbred racing quite the same again.
She was a perfect 10-for-10 and although the record books will show she lost her 11th race, it's also true that RUFFIAN died on the lead. A hurt that churns up sadness and sympathy for RUFFIAN with shock and outrage at life, that in a split second, triumph twists into tragedy. RUFFIAN did everything that was ever asked of her and that she demanded of herself. When she was at the height of achievement her greatest most glorious effort brought her unbelievable pain and death. She was robbed and so were we all. RUFFIAN is buried near the flagpole at her home track of Belmont - the site of her first race where she blazed boldly onto the racing scene, and the site of her final race where a hundred thousand eyes watched as her brilliant flame flickered out.
AS AN ADDED BONUS...a few nice segments looking back on RUFFIAN and her legendary career are included after the main feature such as Bill Knack's reflections of RUFFIAN and the comparison of RUFFIAN to her kindred spirit, BARBARO... in addition to news of the new RUFFIAN MEDICAL CENTER being erected at the sight of RUFFIAN's grave at Belmont Park; a state-of-the-art full-service medical facility inspired by the memory of RUFFIAN.
|Format(s) Available:||DVD And VHS|
|Category:||U.S. & Canadian Flat Racing|