6 May 2008

Eight Belles and Ruffian

filed under: journal  :: history  :: sports

I am far from being a horse kind of person. Horses generally scare me when I meet them in, uh, person. But I do think they are the most beautiful creatures on this earth, especially when in full stride.

Reading about the filly Eight Belles having to be put down after the Kentucky Derby, was sad. A tragic event indeed. By a rather eerie coincidence, the trainer of the most famous filly racer ever, Ruffian, died on Friday.

In her day Ruffian was a shining star, amazingly fast, very big for a filly. She was put into a Battle of the Sexes match race against the winner of the Kentucky Derby that year, 1975, in the style of the Battle of the Sexes tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs. During that race, she broke her right foreleg, and kept on running. She was destroyed when all attempts to try to save her failed.

A couple of years ago I became rather obsessed with Ruffian's story, and read everything I could about her. The best by far is Ruffian: Burning From the Start by Jane Schwartz. It brings Ruffian to life, as it does the people around her. If someone writes about Eight Belles, I hope they do as good as job.

There is also a TV movie about Ruffian. I haven't gotten around to watching this yet, but perhaps I will tonight.

Comments on this post:

I have to admit I had a stage

I have to admit I had a stage where I was kind of obsessed with horse racing and the whole culture. It's sad to see when they need to get put down but also understandable.

That book you're talking about by Jane Schwartz sounds really good and I'm going to look into see if I can find it used somehow.


The high profile deaths of

The high profile deaths of major US equine stars are an interesting contrast to the UK, where racehorse fatalities on track are at an all time low.

I read with interest the news that the California Horse Racing Board have nominated Bo Derek, the actress now as famous for her equine welfare efforts, to the committee.

Far from being a problem to horse racing in the state of California, I think it shows rare insight. She will be able to mouth the concerns of a significant (though sometimes blinkered, if you'll pardon the pun) subset of the community.

In so doing, racing's image can be enhanced by being seen to act against the perpetuation of racing fatalities.

The introduction of 'kinder' synthetic surfaces is also an important step towards this objective.

Matt Bisogno
Leading UK Horse Racing Blog Site

I have mixed your feelings

I have mixed your feelings in your article. Yes I agree with you that horses are the most beautiful creatures in the world. But you know when I see them near me I begin to have feared. They are so magic. And of course I know the story about Ruffian.

Eight Belles and Ruffian

I was a little kid and I wanted Foolish Pleasure to win so badly that I said and wished very bad things for Ruffian. Suffice it to say, for years after that I believed that I killed Ruffian. Between Ruffian, Barbero and Eight Belles, I just can't watch horse racing anymore.

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