Ten Things You Should Know: Ruffian Handicap
By Kevin Martin, Hello Race Fans Contributing Editor
1) The Ruffian Handicap is a race for fillies and mares 3-years-old and up run at Belmont Park in Elmont New York.
2) The race is relatively new in comparison with other important New York stakes races. It was run for the first time in 1976 and has been run every year with the exceptions of 2001 when the race was cancelled due to the September 11 attacks and 2012 when it was dropped from the NYRA stakes schedule.
3) The race is named for the filly Ruffian, who is frequently mentioned among the best female racers of all time. She won her first 10 starts but broke down in her final start, a match race with Foolish Pleasure at Belmont Park in 1975.
4) A former fixture during the fall championship meet at Belmont Park, the race moved to Saratoga in 2010. It was dropped from the schedule after losing its Grade 1 status in 2012. In 2013 it was run for the first time at Aqueduct as a Grade 2 stakes at one mile, and in 2014 it was moved back to Belmont Park.
5) Three-year-old fillies won seven of the first ten editions of the race’ those winners include Kentucky Derby winner Genuine Risk in 1980 and Lady’s Secret in 1985. The last 3-year-old to win the Ruffian came in 1997 (Tomisue’s Delight).
7) Fourteen winners of the Ruffian have gone on to win Eclipse Awards at the end of the year. Six of the first eight winners (1976-1983) won an Eclipse. In the other two years in that eight-year span, the Eclipse winner for older female finished third in the Ruffian (Cascapedia in 1977 and Waya in 1979).
8) There has only been one dual winner of the Ruffian Handicap. Lady’s Secret won it in 1985 and 1986. In 1986, she carried 129 pounds and finished in a stakes record time for the 1 1/8 miles distance.
9) The three South American-bred mares that have won the Ruffian are the only three winners not bred in North America: Bayakoa (Argentina, 1989), Riboletta (Brazil, 2000), and Wild Spirit (Chile, 2003).
10) Three jockeys have won the Ruffian four times: Jacinto Vasquez, Angel Cordero, Jr., and Jerry Bailey. John Velazquez holds the current record of wins with six (1996, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2013, 2014). Vasquez was the jockey who rode Ruffian for nine of her eleven career starts. He won the first edition of the race about a year after Ruffian’s unfortunate end.