The King and I are off to Belmont today; we're taking a long route that should get us to the Big Sandy for the first race on Saturday. Belmont is where I discovered racing. It's where I cashed my very first ticket -- a quinella, of course -- with Madonna Lily and Judy Soda.
And it's where Ruffian is buried.
On Saturday, ABC will air Ruffian, having reached some sort of agreement with Frank Whiteley and Jacinto Vasquez, who filed suit to have the station show a disclaimer indicating that the movie is a fictionalized version of true events and that the depictions of trainer Whiteley and jockey Vasquez have not been approved by them.
Nonetheless, viewers will tune in, and DRF's Jay Hovdey reports they'll be treated to "an agonizingly accurate re-creation of the impact and subsequent compound fracture, not to mention a graphic depiction of the injury's immediate aftermath, courtesy of some inspired horse wrangling." (DRF+)
I'd suggest those who aren't fond of "agonizingly accurate" breakdowns pick up a book instead. Ruffian: A Racetrack Romance by William Nack, published by ESPN last month in connection with the film, is a quick read that captures the filly's charisma with lush prose, as when Nack enumerates some of his memories:
"I saw the way she came to the paddock for the Astoria, so clearly up to no good, moving into the walking ring as through a lobby bar, like some willowy hooker on the make, that black satin dress pulled tight around her full and nearly perfect derriere. And I saw her brilliant final quarter in the Spinaway Stakes at Saratoga that cloudy August afternoon, echoes from the ancient reaches of her pedigree, and heard and felt the electric exuberance of the clubhouse crowds, all those fancy breeders and owners, as it crackled like a blue spark up and down the rows of iron girders and box seats."The book is as much about Nack as Ruffian, and I don't think that the subtitle, "A Racetrack Romance," is an accident; it sounds like he fell for that filly big time. Whether his memories are technically accurate or not doesn't seem to matter; it's clear that the emotion is true.
Of course, to me, the most moving description of Ruffian is undoubtly factual: row after row of 1's, and then, those final, heartbreaking dashes: