She's bigger than Secretariat, she may be faster than Foolish Pleasure and she is grievously misnamed. She's called Ruffian, but she's a sweet young thing.
She was particularly sweet winning the Acorn at Aqueduct last Saturday. It was her eighth victory against no defeats since she began racing a year ago, and she made the other 3-year-old fillies in the mile event look ridiculous. She won by 8� lengths, seemingly without effort, and set a stakes record of 1:34[2/5]. The Acorn is the first race in the female equivalent of the Triple Crown, the Mother Goose and the Coaching Club American Oaks being the others.
Her trainer, Frank Whiteley Jr., is asked repeatedly when Ruffian will race against Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure and the other colts. All indications are that it won't be until the fall.
"Maybe she's a great horse," Whiteley said after the Acorn, "but you can't say that until she beats colts. When will I run her against colts? I don't know. Not soon. I don't know what I'm going to do with her. So you don't know either."
Aside from being a marvelous horse, and despite her name, Ruffian is a lady. Before the Acorn, surrounded by a motley group of humans, she was quiet, curious and affectionate. She is just under 17 hands tall—enormous for a filly—but she is so well proportioned that from a distance you don't realize her size. Up close, it is awesome.
She gazes at visitors complacently. Just before the Acorn, standing in her stall waiting to be saddled, she ducked her head to nuzzle the hand of a complete stranger, then lifted her head and looked at him a bit unhappily. She dipped her head again and nudged his hand up to see if he were hiding something in it, then turned away.
"She looking for something to eat," said Dan Williams, her elderly groom. "She very quiet, very kind, but sometime she don't take to some people."
Whiteley, a leathery, handsome man with white hair and a cheerful, strong face, nodded. "Most of the time she's friendly," he said. "But she can be cantankerous, too. Watch when they tighten her girth."
She was being saddled for the race, and when the girth was tightened, she sidestepped. Then she lifted her head angrily.
"Shoo, shoo," said the groom, and she quieted. She walked docilely out of the stall to go to the post, the heavy muscles twisting gently under her shining coat. She is a rich dark brown, almost black, with a tiny white mark high on her forehead.