Ruffian

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That evening, Monday, when the day’s races were finished at Belmont, and the last straggler gone, a group of perhaps three dozen people gathered in the infield by the flagpole. It had been requested that only members of what was called her human family be there—the stable help, grooms, exercise riders, Mr. and Mrs. Jacinto Vasquez, he in a somber suit and tie—and uniformed Pinkertons asked hundreds of backstretch workers who had come to say good-bye to please stay at a distance. A great machine with a clamshell-shaped scoop dug a grave for the first horse ever in history to be buried at one of the New York Race Association’s tracks—Aqueduct, Saratoga, Belmont.

The machine carved out an excavation around twelve feet square and of about the same depth. Then the same horse ambulance that had carried her off the track some twenty-seven hours earlier came slowly driving up. The doors opened, and a hydraulic lift lowered a great white-wrapped bulk bound up like a mummy. She was put into her grave. Whiteley told an assistant trainer to lay on two blankets she had worn. He did so, carefully smoothing them. Some flowers were dropped in. The machine scooped up dirt and put it in, and a great horseshoe wreath was put into place, and the people went away into the twilight.

Foolish Pleasure was never the same horse. He failed B J to win in three 1975 efforts after the Great Match Race, was given time off, and came back in 1976 to run in mediocre fashion, losing four times. Retired to stud at a fee of twenty-five thousand dollars per breeding, he has to date produced more than four hundred foals, none of which has come close to possessing his ability. Now he is twenty-one years old, and his situation is such that anyone with a couple of thousand dollars and a mare can command his services.

Whiteley retired. Baeza retired. Both Janneys died, as did Foolish Pleasure’s owner, John L. Greer. Vasquez continues to ride, very old now by jockey standards. Sometimes people still send flowers to put by a Belmont Park stone marker listing the victories won by the greatest filly who ever lived, perhaps the greatest horse who ever lived, above where she lies with her head pointing toward the finish line.