No nervousness showed on Whiteley as he hosed Ruffian's legs early one morning last week. "Everyone says she's so terrific and that she's the best horse I've ever been around," he noted, "but I haven't said it yet, have I? This filly has never raced, or even worked, on an off track. But she is big, 16 hands one inch, a little over 1,000 pounds, and she's as strong as a 3-year-old colt. After she won her first start I kidded some of the boys by telling them, 'She's really a 3-year-old.' Then she kept on winning, and I don't kid them anymore, because somebody's liable to believe it."
Janney and Whiteley will probably run Ruffian in only two more races this season, the Frizette and the Selima, before returning her to Camden, S.C. to freshen up for the 1975 campaign. Her few detractors say that her astonishing speed may make her more vulnerable to injury, the theory being that the greater the speed the harder a horse's feet hit the ground. This could be true to an extent, especially with horses who have to exert themselves to reach and maintain top speed, but in Ruffian's case, as track veterinarian Manuel Gilman points out, "Her gait is so effortless and graceful that it is not overexertion. This filly has fine legs. I think she'll be able to do anything, run on any kind of track and run any distance, too."
"If Ruffian had run in the Hopeful," said a trainer, "she could have won either division by 20 lengths. And if they had made the two divisions the first and last races on the card, she probably could have won both ends."
The highest accolade for this dark filly, who has the grace and sheer power of a superhorse, came from someone who should know. As he polished off a nightcap many hours after the Spinaway had been run, Trainer Lucien Laurin, with the forthrightness for which he has always been known, suddenly exclaimed, "As God is my judgment, this filly may be better than Secretariat!"