1975 Match Race - Ruffian vs Foolish Pleasure
The unbeaten and imposing black filly, Ruffian (16.2 as a two year old), is believed by some to have been the best race horse that ever lived. After ten undefeated races in which she broke numerous track records, she was entered in a match race with Foolish Pleasure, the winner of that year’s Kentucky Derby. As Ruffian left the starting gate, she hit her shoulder hard before straightening out. The first quarter-mile (402 m) was run in 221⁄5 seconds, with Ruffian ahead by a nose. Little more than 1 furlong (201 m) later, Ruffian was in front by half a length when she changed leads, followed by an audible crack: both sesamoid bones in her right foreleg had snapped. Vasquez tried to pull her up, but the filly would not stop. She went on running, pulverizing her sesamoids, ripping the skin of her fetlock and tearing her ligaments until her hoof was flopping uselessly. Vasquez said it was impossible for him to stop her. She still tried to run and finish the race. Video showed Ruffian was startled by a bird in the infield and took a bad step. Ruffian, fighting to the end, was humanely euthanized eight hours later as she came out of the anesthesia after an 3½‐hour operation, struggling and fighting so hard that she destroyed her cast and breaking her elbow in the process. Ruffian is buried near a flag pole in the infield of Belmont Park, with her nose pointed toward the finish line. Her untimely breakdown and death began led to a public outcry for more humane treatment of racehorses and advanced developments in the treatment of horses after surgery.