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Ruffian: Burning From the Start

4.33  ·  Rating Details ·  2,145 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
During two short seasons at the track, Ruffian was hailed as the greatest thoroughbred filly of all time. Unbeaten in her first ten starts, she shattered one record after another, dazzling crowds with both her beauty and her brilliant speed. Then tragedy struck on the afternoon of July 6, 1975. Ruffian broke down–on the lead–in the middle of a match race at Belmont Park. L ...more
Paperback, 344 pages
Published April 30th 2002 by Ballantine Books (first published 1991)
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Apr 11, 2011 Bonnie added it
I can remember seeing Ruffian run in the match race that ultimately caused her to be euthanized. Sadly, her death brought many reforms to the often ugly sport of horse racing and management of injuries, as well as greater attention to breeding.

Ruffian was a gorgeous animal and an amazing athlete. Even though I knew how the story ended, I wanted to know more about her, her owners, trainers, and all those around her. This book gave me that insight, and even the tears in my eyes at the end didn't t
Apr 25, 2012 Cat rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horses-racing
This is the book that Ruffian deserves. Schwartz does justice to this immensely talented horse, and to the people around her--Frank Whiteley, her trainer, her groom, exercise riders, jockey and her owners. I came away with a great respect for all of them.

Schwartz alternates chapters dealing with Ruffian's training and racing, her past, with chapters leading up to the match race with Foolish Pleasure. It's a style that could be confusing, but she handles it with skill. It's a technique that also
Sep 30, 2011 Caroline rated it really liked it
I can't decide why I liked this book. I don't know that it was necessarily as well-written as some of the other thoroughbred biographies (Lauren Hillenbrand's, specifically), but I still enjoyed it.

The end we all know. And of course I cried. A lot. But, the rest of the story was still interesting to read. I guess what makes this less exciting is that Ruffian never really had a chance to really show off what she could do. Man'o'War got his fair time on the track, as did Secretariat, and Seabiscui
This book was moving, informative, and brilliantly put together. Schwartz certainly did her homework in the research department, and she writes with enough skill and subtlety to touch you deeply, without having to resort to petty tricks. It helps that the story of Ruffian is a tragedy, but I believe Schwartz's skill contributed a lot, particularly after reading William Nack's take on the subject. If you want to know what I thought of that, you may find your way to that review, thank you.

Oct 29, 2009 Anne rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
A in-depth biography of a remarkable filly who was born to run. Ruffian is unique in the racing world not only for her speed but for her heart and will to win. She is buried entire near the flagpole at Belmont Park, facing the finish line. Ruffian lived a life of triumph, courage and tragedy, one of the foremost race horses of the 20th century.
Patricia Swenson
Jan 09, 2009 Patricia Swenson rated it it was amazing
I remember crying for 3 days after Ruffian was put down. I also re-evaluated my desire to be a vet. And learned that I was not cut out to be one. I would not be able to put a horse down, nor allow one who needed to be put down to live in pain, and be able to live with my decision.
Feb 15, 2013 Kristin rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. A perfect combination of in-depth history about all the people and events around Ruffian without the story being weighed down with minutiae. I could have lived without the description of Ruffian's conception -- I think non-horse people don't care about how horses are bred, and horse people already know how it works. But otherwise the story was amazing. And the ending... I won't spoil it, but it was a perfect way to honor Ruffian's life and close the story. A must-read for hors ...more
May 19, 2012 Barbara rated it really liked it
I have loved horses ever since I can remember. They are such beautiful, majestic animals. I take advantage of every opportunity just to be near them and watch them whether grazing in a field, jumping or performing dressage in a show ring, running in a race, teaching children to ride or taking care of broken or injured people in a therapeutic program.

Given this love, I was one of the millions watching the match race back on that day in 1975. When I came across this book, I wanted to learn more a
Rena Sherwood
Vivid and highly detailed look at the all-too-brief years of possibly the fastest filly ever to be bred n America. Walter Farley would state that the horse closest to The Black Stallion was Ruffian. She was everything good and everything horrendous about thoroughbred racing. Some good photos and Daily Racing Form cartoons reproduced here.

I used to have a first edition of this, but I think I sold it before I ran away to the UK for five years. I have replaced a handful of my long-lost horse book c
Lisa Hoenig
May 15, 2012 Lisa Hoenig rated it really liked it
A detailed account of Ruffian's brief, bright flame of a life. Loved that the horse herself is so much of a presence in the book, alongside all of her handlers, trainer, owners and riders. Schwartz's telling reveals Ruffian's amazing heart -- big enough that Walter Farley said she was the closest thing he ever saw to his fictional Black Stallion. Undefeated, she set or equaled records in every race she ran. Although you know how the story will end, the book is riveting all the way through. I esp ...more
May 31, 2011 Tracy rated it it was amazing
If you love horse racing, read this book. If you love animals, read this book. If you love the drama of sports, read this book. It's a tough read, esp towards the end when it deals with Ruffian's breakdown and death, but you will come out of this read knowing the true heart and courage of this incredible filly. One of the greatest racemares of all time, Ruffian's record was a picture of perfection until her final start.

This book will hit you hard, but it will make you marvel at the majesty of th
Dec 17, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
OK, I'm a sucker for horse books. Ruffian is a good story, about an incredible filly, but not as well written as Seabiscuit: An American Legend. I think part of the problem is that, inspite of her name, Ruffian was a filly whose training and story, while filled with great promise and blistering speed, were mostly uneventful until the bitter end. As a reader and horse lover, I'm left mourning the passing of a racing great whose short career will always be plagued by the question: How much more co ...more
Mar 03, 2010 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone who loves horses, anyone intersted in horse racing, anyone interested in American History
Recommended to Stephanie by: All of my friends
Shelves: horses
Just as good as I remembered it. I like how it doesn't focus on the tragedy that became of her life but rather what she accomplished and left unfinished. The author doesn't fault the racing industry or trainers or any of the above - as she shouldn't - it was a horrible accident that couldn't be avoided. Great writing about an American Racing Legend and an insightful look into the thoroughbred racing industry. I will mostly likely re-read this book in the future as I have done several times.
K.V. Witten
Dec 10, 2012 K.V. Witten rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this book a while back. I must admit to a sentimental attachment to Ruffian and her story. I was around eleven or twelve when she was racing and I (along with several of my friends) felt she was *our* horse - a filly that took on the boys and beat them at their own game. And I most especially remember her last race and hysterically crying when she broke down. A heart-breaking but yet inspiring story.
Lisa James
Mar 06, 2011 Lisa James rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horses, non-fiction, owned
Even though I ws a little girl when her tragedy occurred, & knew what the outcome would be before I ever read it, this was an amazing book. It made me laugh, it made me cry. The photos were a wonderful memory to have of this filly who gave her heart to her sport, & who's broken life touched America's horse lovers & Thoroughbred lovers around the world. Rest In Peace brave girl. You were a star that burned out way too soon.
Jun 06, 2009 Caroline rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Carol, Tiffany, Cara, Camille
Shelves: nonfiction, equine
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 14, 2013 Stevie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well done. A nice tribute to an amazing filly.

She was alsways inspiring and beautiful to me (even though some of my views of the industry have changed in the last 21 years) ... I now see a less Romanticized view of the treatment of the horses, but no less so of the magic that is a Thoroughbred who loves to run - and especially in a spirited, gorgeous filly who never lost a race.
Aug 13, 2012 Barbara rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horse
A must read for horse lovers. Such a moving, poignant story about a great racehorse and the people who surrounded her. We are left to wonder what if her fate had been different. Thought the writer did a good job both describing daily track life, realities of horse racing, and the characters of the people in the story.
Katie Marquette
Jul 24, 2009 Katie Marquette rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horses
My Mom always told me how she watched this race. For any of you with a knowledge of horse racing, you know the race I'm talking about: the race where Ruffian, arguably the greatest filly to ever race in the big leagues, fell and died on the track. A fascinating, tragic account of a truly phenomenal horse.
Jul 25, 2012 Kit rated it it was amazing
Shelves: real-life, animals
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 02, 2013 Melinda rated it it was amazing
One of the best horse racing books I've ever read.
I was fifteen that July afternoon when my dad, grandfather, and I watched the match race between Ruffian and Foolish Pleasure.
I sometimes share aloud with my students the scene in the book where Ruffian breaks down. But I have to be careful when I do because my voice chokes with the tears of my teenage self.
Linda Ransom
Mar 12, 2013 Linda Ransom rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horses-n-ponies
Broke my heart. I cried several times during this book (during anything about Ruffian, really), but it's one of the very BEST horse books I've ever read. She was an amazing filly, and it's a shame she was never able to race again.

If you love horses, please read it. It will break you, but the pain is worthwhile.
Aug 07, 2011 Teresa rated it it was amazing
Wow, this book was amazing. Once you get past all the swearing, it's a really amazing tale about this surreal filly who just came out of no where and won everything; she proved that girls CAN be better ;-) I sobbed right through the end.
Mr. Kovach
Dec 26, 2012 Mr. Kovach rated it it was amazing
A fantastic book about a glorious race horse that met a tragic end. I love the way the narrative goes back and forth between the fateful match race and all the events in the horse's life that led up to it. Just a wonderfully written account of an amazing and beautiful horse.
Oct 28, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing
This is one of my favorite non fiction horse books. It is very evident that Jane Schwartz was emotionally invested in her subject and, at the same time, tells all of the details without exaggeration.
Jan 14, 2012 Jen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best horse books I've ever read. I read it as a kid in junior high and I loved it so much I never wanted to give it up. I searched for the 1st Edition and found it a few years ago. I HAD to have the same edition I read when I was younger. She moved me.
Allison Janezic
Jul 03, 2013 Allison Janezic rated it it was amazing
I read this book many years ago and forgot the date. It is a beautiful look into one of racing's greatest athletes, the people who surrounded her and her brief run into history. Without a doubt when comparing great female Thoroughbreds Ruffian is the one name that will always come up.
Mar 31, 2010 Laura rated it liked it
I was there the day she broke down and stood outside Belmont in the dark when they buried her. We'll never know how good she might have been. On a side note, I own a grandson of Foolish Pleasure and I've never met a horse with more heart.

Jan 10, 2008 Denise rated it it was amazing
Not for kiddos because it's very graphic....and heartbreakng (despite already knowing the ending)
Lisa Clark
Nov 18, 2012 Lisa Clark rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written tribute to an amazing champion
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Jane Schwartz has written for many publications, including the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, the Blood-Horse, and Daily Racing Forum, where her column "Free Rein" appeared. She is also the author of a novel. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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“She was by far the biggest yearling in the bunch, the biggest many of them could remember, a freak.” 2 likes
“a yearling that size, that commanding, with all the ease of a much older horse.” 2 likes
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