The New York Racing Association Inc. announced on Aug. 24 that the remains of Hall of Fame filly Ruffian had been transported from Belmont Park to the grounds of Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, where the 1970s-era champion was foaled and raised.
Ruffian was buried on Thursday at Claiborne’s Marchmont Cemetery, the final resting place of numerous legends of the sport. The move to Claiborne will dramatically expand public access to her gravesite, in contrast to Belmont Park, where Ruffian’s site was clearly visible from the grandstand but inaccessible to fans.
The move to Claiborne will ensure the preservation of Ruffian’s remains, buried shortly after her death in 1975 at the base of the flagpole near the finish line at Belmont Park, where NYRA is beginning the installation of a one-mile synthetic track.
Bred by Stuart Janney Jr. and his wife, Barbara Phipps Janney, owners of Locust Hill Farm in Glyndon, Maryland, Ruffian was sired by Reviewer, a son of Bold Ruler, out of the Native Dancer mare Shenanigans. In her brief two-year career, Ruffian won all 10 races she finished, including the Acorn, Mother Goose and Coaching Club American Oaks, then known as the American Triple Tiara.
“I’d like to thank NYRA for preserving and protecting Ruffian’s gravesite at Belmont for close to 50 years,” said Stuart Janney, who made the decision to move the remains jointly with Claiborne and NYRA, where he is a board member. “We have been working with NYRA and Claiborne for months, and this is a wonderful outcome that will increase the public’s ability to visit the site and pay tribute to Ruffian and her incredible legacy. Claiborne is one of the most beautiful and revered Thoroughbred farms in America and the home of some of the greatest horses in racing history, and the ideal place for Ruffian.”
Ruffian was dominant from the beginning, winning her first start as a 2-year-old by 15 lengths and equaling the Belmont Park track record for 5 1/2 furlongs. She led the field at every post in every race she ever ran and set records in each of her eight winning stakes races. Named Champion Filly as a 2-year-old in 1974 and as a 3-year-old in 1975, Ruffian died in July 1975 from injuries sustained in a race at Belmont Park, where she was buried that month. In 1976, she was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame.
A legend returns home
“We are honored that Ruffian will be returning home,” said Walker Hancock, president of Claiborne Farm. “She is known throughout racing as one of the greatest fillies of all time, and it’s only fitting that she returns to her birthplace and will lie alongside other great mares such as Personal Ensign, Inside Information and Moccasin, among others, in our Marchmont Cemetery.”
In the 48 years since her death, Ruffian’s legend has flourished. BloodHorse ranked her 35th in its list of the top 100 U.S. Thoroughbred champions of the 20th century. She is the highest-rated filly or mare on the list.
Since 1976, NYRA has hosted the G2 Ruffian Handicap for fillies and mares, 4-year-olds and up, at one mile on the dirt. Just outside Belmont Park, the Cornell Ruffian Equine Hospital provides medical services ranging from acute care for race-related injuries to preventative and primary care. At Aqueduct, an oversized mural of Ruffian and her regular jockey, Jacinto Vasquez, greets visitors at the Clubhouse entrance.
NYRA has also relocated the plaque from Ruffian’s gravesite at Belmont Park to Claiborne Farm.
In addition, the remains of Timely Writer, winner of the 1981 Hopeful and Champagne, will be transferred from the infield area at the top of the stretch at Belmont Park to Old Friends Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky.
Owned by Peter and Francis Martin, Timely Writer began his career as a claimer at Monmouth Park and at year’s end was named the 1981 Florida bred Horse-of-the-Year. In 1982, at age 3, he won the Florida Derby but missed the Triple Crown due to injury. For his career, Timely Writer won nine races from 15 starts, earning $605,491.
Note: This press release is an edited version of the release written by Pat McKenna.