ruffianRuffian was a filly and one of the best Thoroughbred racehorses of all time. The Blood-Horse magazine ranked her among the top racehorses of the 20th century.  Ranked 35th she was the only mare to make the list. She was never defeated and went on to make a huge impact on the sport due to her death in 1975. You can read more about this further down on the page.

Ruffian was born 1972 at Claiborne Farm, near Paris, Kentucky. She won the Filly Triple Crown in 1975. The filly triple crown is the filly equivalent of the triple crown. The filly triple crown is now usually referred to as the triple tiara. Ruffian was the 4th ever U.S. Triple Tiara Champion

Ruffian also won the Spinaway Stakes with a new record time of 1:08.03 despite finishing the race on a fractured leg. The Spinaway Stakes record is just one of Ruffians record that is standing to this day.

Ruffian won the awards U.S. Champion 2-Yr-Old- Filly (1974) and U.S. Champion 3-Yr-Old- Filly (1975) showing just how much better than other fillies she was at the time. Ruffian was also known by the nickname, Queen of the fillies.

She never finished her last race, a match race against Foolish Pleasure, that was seen by 50,000 spectators and an estimated more than 20 million viewers in front of the television. The race was heavily promoted as a battle of the sexes. During the race she snapped both her sesamoid bones in her upper leg. An injury that would ultimately lead to her being euthanized.

Short info

  • Born: 1972
  • Died: 1975
  • Sex: Filly
  • Color: Dark Brown
  • Nicknames: Queen of the fillies
  • Breeder: Stuart & Barbara Janney
  • Owner: Stuart & Barbara Janney
  • Trainer: Frank Y. Whiteley, Jr.
  • Earnings: $313,429 , About 1.5 million in today’s money
  • Record: 11: 10-0-0 (She didnt finish one of her races)

Ruffian pedigree

A part of Ruffians problem and her ultimate fate is believed to be due to her bloodline. Her father Reviewer suffered 3 broken legs during his racing career and was put down after the 4th break. Her mother Shenanigans suffered 2 breaks. Her damsire Native Dancer is often considered the source of her “soft boned” genetics.

Reviewer Bold Ruler Nasrullah
Miss Disco
Broadway Hasty Road
Shenanigans Native Dancer Polynesian
Bold Irish Fighting Fox

Important victories

Ruffians biggest wins where:

Fashion Stakes (1974)
Astoria Stakes (1974)
Spinaway Stakes (1974)
Sorority Stakes (1974)
Comely Stakes (1975)
Acorn Stakes (1975)
Mother Goose Stakes (1975)
Coaching Club American Oaks (1975)


Ruffians death had a profound effect on the sport of horse racing. The 50 000 spectators and 20 million television viewers that were watching her last race were outraged over how racehorses were treated following her death. What happened was that she snapped both her sesamoid bones in the upper leg but kept running for another 100 yards ripping the skin of the leg, pulverizing her sesamoids and destroying the ligaments until her hoof was flopping about completely uselessly. This was as you can imagine a disturbing sight for spectators and television viewers alike.

Ruffian was immediately put under veterinary care by 4 vets and a orthopedic surgeon. The surgeon tried to save her by performing a 3 hour long surgery. When she woke up she started to trash around the padded recovery stall. No one was able to calm her down and she knocked her plaster cast against things until she smashed her elbow to pieces. She was also able to remove the cast and rip open her foreleg once again destroying the surgeons work. At this point they decided that they could not save her and decided to euthanize her.

The public outcry after this incident caused the development of a recovery pool where horses can be suspended when they wake up from anesthesia in an environment where they are unable to re-injure themselves. Ruffians death also lead to the use of corticosteroids for inflammation and pain management in horses. Ruffians last race was the last time two champions where set to meet in a match race in the united states.