According to journalist William H. Rudy, Ruffian “had an ease of motion that all but masks her wonderful speed.” Nearly black and larger than most colts, Ruffian was foaled and raised at Claiborne for Stuart and Barbara Janney. Seth Hancock recalled that she weighed a whopping 890 pounds as a yearling. By the time she was two, she stood 16.1 hands and had a girth just over 75 inches. By comparison, Secretariat had a girth of 76 inches and Forego had a girth of 77 inches – both at age four.
In her very first start at two, Ruffian won by 15 lengths and equalled the Belmont Park track record for 5 1/2 furlongs which has been set by the brilliant Raise a Native. Undefeated in five starts that year, she won the Fashion S., the Astoria S., the Sorority S., and the Spinaway. In the latter, she won by 12 3/4 lengths and set a new stakes record for the nearly 100-year-old race. Bill Rudy wrote that the “big, beautiful dark bay filly sent a surge of excitement through seasoned professionals and racing public alike.”
Returning to the races at three, Ruffian posted a five-length win in a six-furlong allowance race, won the Comely-G3 by eight, then rolled through the three races that made up the New York Filly Triple Crown: the one-mile Acorn-G1, the 1 1/8-mile Mother Goose-G1, and the 1 1/2 Coaching Club American Oaks-G1.
With nothing left to prove in her division, a match race was arranged, Ruffian was to meet Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure going 1 1/4 miles at Belmont Park. Ruffian broke a tick behind the colt, but was gradually pulling away when regular rider Jacinto Vasquez heard a sharp crack. Ruffian had suffered a grave injury in her right front leg. All efforts were made to save her, but the spirited filly re-injured herself in recovery and had to be euthanized. The spectacular Ruffian is still recognized as a standard by which other top fillies are measured even some 30 years after her death.
Buried at Belmont Park.