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Ruffian: Burning from the Start Paperback – April 30, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ruffian was arguably the best thoroughbred filly that ever raced: the horse won all five of the events it entered as a two-year-old in 1973, frequently setting or tying track records, and duplicated that string of successes the following year, taking the filly triple crown. On July 6, 1975, Ruffian was entered in a match race against Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure; partway through the race Ruffian broke a front leg and, despite an operation, had to be destroyed. Schwartz ( Caught ) on occasion annoyingly anthropomorphizes the horse, as when she describes Ruffian as "self-possessed, self-assured" and, on the day of the fatal race, "aware that something big was coming up." Despite this tendency, however, the book is a moving tribute to a great horse, and will leave a lump in the throat of devotees of the sport of kings. Photos.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Ruffian: the name stands out among a handful of great racehorses. Ruffian: the name conjures memories of a tough competitor, a tomboy. Ruffian: the name synonymous with the pinnacle of glory and the nadir of tragedy. Schwartz ( Caught , Ballantine, 1987) eloquently captures the spirit and style of this undefeated filly who beat all comers save death. In the 1975 match race against the colt Foolish Pleasure, viewed by a televised audience of 18 million, Ruffian broke down while leading and later had to be destroyed. Schwartz tells Ruffian's story from her birth, breaking, training, and racing, to the day of the ill-fated "battle of the sexes" through the eyes of her handlers, grooms, jockeys, and trainer. This is an exhilarating yet sad tale of the thrills and fears of horseracing. Highly recommended for most public libraries.
- Susan Hamburger, Virginia State Lib. & Archives, Richmond
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (April 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345450000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345450005
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (105 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #390,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Kris Dotto on March 1, 2005
Format: Paperback
"The filly with the perfect record; the coal-black daughter of Reviewer and Shenanigans; the speedball, the beauty, the female, the freak."

An excellent epitaph for one of the 20th Century's greatest horses.

"Ruffian: Burning From The Start," by Jane Schwartz, is the sort of book that cries out to be made into a movie, for it is written so clearly, so cleanly, and with such genuine emotion, that it is impossible not to visualize each scene as you read. Nor is it a book that goes for cheap sentiment. Ruffian's story contains all it needs of triumph, joy, and heartbreak.

Ruffian came out of a stellar bloodline, with Native Dancer and Bold Ruler for grandsires; her sire Reviewer was considered Bold Ruler's second-fastest son, right behind Secretariat. Ruffian herself was extraordinary, a freakishly large, near-black filly with an unearthly stride and speed and the drive to run. Trained by Frank Whiteley, Ruffian was named Filly of the Year in 1974 and swept the Filly Triple Crown in 1975, becoming only the fourth filly in history to do so. She was a legend in her own time, a horse who met or broke speed records, broke the hearts of competitors, and won the hearts of all who saw her through her beauty, her amazing swiftness, her competitor's spirit, and her composure.

And then in 1975, in a match race with Kentucky Derby champion Foolish Pleasure, Ruffian broke the hearts of many when she broke her leg and had to be destroyed.

Schwartz blends the details of the match race with the events in Ruffian's life--her startling debut, her uncanny speed at the track, and her rise to becoming the consummate racehorse.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful By V. Marshall VINE VOICE on May 18, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a Thoroughbred owner I have been facinated by the racing world and all of its stars from Man O' War to our newest star Smarty Jones. But I have to say Ruffian is my all time sentimental favorite.
I can remember watching the match race between Ruffian and the colt Foolish Pleasure. It was a time for women's lib and Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs. I always wanted the girls to win!! But tragically Ruffian paid the price in front of our own eyes. I can remember crying for weeks after watching her beautiful black body fall. My heart was broken for years!
This book is truly a magnificent tribute to one of racing's greatest heros, a big black filly named Ruffian. It reads much more emotionally than other tribute books currently on the market and will stay with you for years. Reading about Ruffian's will to keep running even with two broken legs will rip your heart out! Make sure you buy some stock in Kleenex before you begin this emotional memoir.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful By on October 27, 1997
Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is the story of the star-crossed filly Ruffian, whose death is the equine equivalent of Princess Diana's tragic accident, except for one difference: Diana was a princess; Ruffian was a queen.
Ruffian died before a nationwide television audience in a match race with Kentucky Debry winner, Foolish Pleasure. It was only her eleventh race. Only eleven races, yet in that brief span, she has been hailed as the greatest filly of all time. But after reading Ms. Schwartz's book, I think the case can be made that she was the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and that includes the wondrous Man o' War.
Consider these facts. Ruffian was bigger than most colts; was never behind in any race, except for the first couple of jumps out of the starting gate (when she broke her leg in the match race, she was a length ahead of Foolish Pleasure and widening); and was always slowing down well before the finish line, having destroyed her competition while cruising the backstretch. Yet, despite ten easy romps, Ruffian set speed records that are hard to believe.
For example, her first race took place at Belmont Park. She ran the 5 and 1/2 furlongs under heavy restraint in 1:03 flat. This tied the track record! In the Spinaway at Saratoga, she ran six fulongs in 1:08 and 3/5. This was the fastest six fulrongs ever run by any two-year-old in the history of Saratoga, including Colin, Man o'War, Native Dancer, Nashua, and Secretariat! And in the Comely, Ruffian not only set a stakes record, she also created a minus pool across the board, both on-track and OTB.
The match race is told in all of its horror, but the last few pages are so lovingly and poetically written, I stopped crying, and was just so glad Ms. Schwartz wrote this book, and allowed me to learn about the great Ruffian.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Secretariatgal on September 29, 2005
Format: Paperback
Ruffian and her tragic life moves this story to another level of sadness, it's in its own class. But how life goes on, and how brilliantly Schwartz described how the filly felt as she was put to death, "running easy into the light, free" was something that I have found so touching. The 1975 match, and anyone who remembers it must remember sobbing hours afterward, against Foolish Pleasure proved nothing, yet she ran, even when she could run no more. She died trying to do what she had always wanted to do, and it forever immortalized her as a heroine. At the end of the book, after the silent but meaningful funeral, and how White remembers the best horse he ever trained at the end, I was moved to tears. No book has ever made me cry. Except this one. But don't let it push aside the accomplishments this filly made. With her ever so powerful stride, she never got tired, and won by a dozen lengths every time out, she must have been a gift from god. Though she lasted only a short time here, her legacy, a powerful one, lives on through everyone who remembers her. And the ones who never saw her, but found her to be the true freak she really was.
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