Back in Brooklyn, after an excellent nine-day road trip, and how good of NYRA to be running the Ruthless on my re-entry day, the Ruthless, named after the excellent nineteenth century filly who won both the Travers and the Belmont in 1867.
Ruthless was by Eclipse out of Barbarity, and she and her four full sisters—Relentless, Remorseless, Regardless, and Merciless–were known as the Barbarous Battalion.William H.P. Robertson, in The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America, notes that the same mating produced colts “of no consequence,” while the fillies were all stakes winners.
Last August I wrote about Ruthless’s win in the Travers; as I noted then, she raced eleven times and finished first or second in all of her races, not one of which was sex-restricted.It’s rather sad that this filly who won the inaugural Belmont Stakes is relegated to a non-graded stakes in January; nonetheless, her accomplishments are well worth recalling.
At two, she won the inaugural Nursery Stakes at Jerome Park, beating two fillies and three colts and carrying a whopping 90 pounds (who rode these horses?Toddlers?), and was second in the Saratoga Stakes.At three, Ruthless returned to Jerome Park to win another inaugural race, this one the Belmont, on June 19th, 1967.She faced only two horses (perhaps she scared off the others?), and seems to have been considered an afterthought by her owner, Mr. Francis Morris:
…it was the intention of Mr. Morris to win with Monday, but the speed and resolute game of De Courcey were greater than had been calculated upon, and his stable companion Ruthless was obliged to come to his assistance, and that fleet filly, confessedly the best three-year old now on the turf, cut down De Courcey after a splendid struggle, and successfully maintained the honor and prestige of the Holmdell stable. (New York Times)
If one is willing to engage in a little anthropomorphism, one might imagine this “fleet filly,” named Ruthless, after all, sighing to herself, “Off to rescue the boys…again…”How ashamed poor Monday must have been when his victorious stablemate returned to the barn, how disdainful the glances she must have thrown at him.
Despite the small field, the race seems to have been a worthy first running of this prestigious stake:
…Ruthless was now called upon to do battle for the Holmdell Stable.Ridden admirably by Gilpatrick, she gradually drew up to the two leaders, and half way up the quarter stretch, she cut down Rivoli and challenged De Courcey.The latter seemed to give way for a moment, but Casey rousing him with the whip, he answered with great gameness and a splendid race home ensued—Ruthless at last winning by a short neck after a most exciting finish.(New York Times)
Doesn’t sound quite so different, does it, from that magnificent Belmont on July 9th, 2007, when Rags to Riches followed in Ruthless’s footsteps, challenging the colt and emerging victorious?
Like Rags to Riches, Ruthless was retired after her three-year-old season, having raced seven times as a sophomore, winning five and coming in second in two.She died at twelve after having been ignominiously and accidentally shot by a hunter while in her own paddock, and she was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 1975.
Today’s race gives us reason to recall her accomplishments.In 1867, race fans could have said, “It’s a filly in the Belmont!”, noteworthy only because it was the race’s first running, not because it was unusual for a filly to beat colts.Less than two months later, Ruthless became the only filly to win both the Belmont and the Travers, a distinction that will likely remain hers alone.
Robertson, William H.P. The History of Thoroughbred Racing in America. New York: Bonanza Books, 1964.
“The Turf:The Jerome Park Summer Race Meeting.”The New York Times.20 June 1867.4 January 2009.