Ruffian (2007)

TV Movie   |    |  Biography, Drama, Sport


Ruffian (2007) Poster

A look at the life of the thoroughbred filly that dominated horse racing in the early 1970s.

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7.3/10
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9 June 2007 | qatmom
2
| Smells like...horse manure
Movies hardly ever get horse racing right. Seabiscuit was the closest approach I have seen, but even that movie had problems. Ruffian is loaded with problems.

WHY WHY WHY do movies with racing invariably confabulate odd little human subplots that anyone with any knowledge of the sport knows are pure hokum? I do KNOW the sport, having raised, handled, and raced my own horses, and having written about the sport professionally. The actual history of Ruffian was compelling enough without the make-believe elements of this movie.

The horses used to portray the title character were some of the coarsest, plainest beasts imaginable. Ruffian--the real one--was a tall, nearly 17 hand filly, quite leggy and graceful. With all the cast-off TBs available for purchase on a per-pound meat price basis, couldn't at least one been found for close shots that did not look like a chunky pony???

I am sure that many people in racing would have cheerfully advised the movie's makers on details, gratis, just to be sure things were not gotten laughably wrong. The notion that Claiborne Farm, in the 1970s, shipped horses in a rusty beige trailer with "CF" on the side is silly. Claiborne was and is one of the last remaining family, multi-generational outfits, and has been involved not just with foaling and raising good horses, but in shaping and influencing the breed globally. It is not a marginal operation without presence or reputation. Go to the farm, and note that the gates, the (very large) water tower, the trim on the main stallion barn--are all painted Cadmium Yellow, the farm colors. Rusty beige trailers? Pulled by aged pickup trucks? I think not.

This was a FICTIONAL movie appropriating the name of a real filly, and beyond that, not much more. It was never really explained why Ruffian was extraordinary--the movie makers seemed confused between stakes record time and track record time--or that she had an average winning margin of 7 lengths after 10 races, or that there has never been anything like her since, and in what seems a glaring omission, there was no hint of all the advances in caring for catastrophic breakdowns since 1975. Foolish Pleasure's reputation was inflated beyond what it was at the time--he was a good 3-y-o, but not a great one, and he finished his days in obscurity, pasture-breeding mares somewhere out west.

No wonder Frank Whiteley and Jacinto Vasquez sought to legally block the airing of this movie without adequate disclaimers.

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