08 June 2007

The poetry of the past performance lines

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.

Ruffian's grave at Belmont Park. Source: NYRAOn 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:

Ruffian past performance chart

5 comments:

Nick said...

I've never seen Ruffian's past perfomances before, but wow, very powerful.

Anonymous said...

I loved Ruffian and I cried upon her demise, but I don't think she would have been such a legend if her life and career hadn't ended in such tragic fashion. While she captured the "Triple Tiara", the races that comprise this series do not include the Kentucky Oaks, or the Black Eyed Susan, two far more important races for 3-year-old fillies than the ones that are a part of it. It should also be noted that she strayed from New York but once, and that was to New Jersey, and never beat boys either..... as a matter of fact, that's probably what actually killed her. She should however, never be forgotten..... and she won't be.

Callie said...

I was twelve when Ruffian raced and "broke down". I remember Jess and I completely devastated.

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm not convincec that Ruffian would not have been a great horse if she lived. With a heart like that how can you second guess what might have been.

paul said...

came across this page and wanted to add comment--ruffian even at three was probably the best filly/mare of all time. it would have been scary if she was allowed to run as a four year old as to how good she would have been. with all respects to all the great females most recently zenyatta,Ruffian was by far in a class by herself