Horse for the Course: Ruthless, Winner of the 1867 Belmont and Travers Stakes

In every issue of 2022, we’ll be featuring a different “horse for the course,” a Thoroughbred from the annals of Saratoga racing that found glory on the Spa’s track. To kick things off, we travel all the way back to the first decade of racing at Saratoga Race Course to honor Ruthless, a filly who most certainly lived up to her name.

From her very first start, Ruthless was ruthless. Foaled just south of Saratoga on a farm in Westchester County, Ruthless, an imposing bay of 16 hands, was the most accomplished of the “Barbarous Battalion” sisters—five stakes-winning fillies by Eclipse out of Barbarity in the 1860s and ’70s. 

As a 2-year-old in 1866, Ruthless broke her maiden at Saratoga in her second career start, earning a $500 purse. That fall, she won the Nursery Stakes at Westchester County’s Jerome Park and, nine days later, finished second to stablemate Monday in the Trial Stakes at Paterson, NJ, concluding her juvenile season with two wins and two seconds in four starts.

Ruthless began her 3-year-old campaign with a victory in the Spring Stakes at Jerome Park in May, returning one day later to win a $500 purse. On June 4, 1867, she finished second to Monday—a standout colt that won five of his seven starts—in the 1½-mile Jersey Derby, before defeating him and two other colts in the first running of the Belmont Stakes, contested at 1⅝ miles at Jerome Park. In its report on the inaugural Belmont, the New York Times described Ruthless as “the best three-year-old now on the turf.” 

Seven weeks after her victory in the Belmont, Ruthless confirmed her superiority over the colts of her era by becoming the second filly to win the Travers, contested at 1¾ miles at Saratoga. She went on to win one more race, taking the two-mile Sequel Stakes at Saratoga five days after her Travers win. 

That fall, a leg injury sustained in training forced Ruthless into an early retirement. Her career record was 7-4-0 from 11 starts, with career earnings of $11,000. She was bred to her rival, Monday, and produced the colt Battle Axe, winner of the Kentucky Stakes at—where else?—Saratoga. Ruthless was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975, forever enshrining her in the city that helped make her one of the greats.  


Meet the Rest of the Barbarous Battalion

Relentless, winner of the 1867 Saratoga Stakes (her lone start), defeating subsequent Belmont winner General Duke

Remorseless, champion 2-year-old filly of 1869, when she won the Flash Stakes and Saratoga Stakes

Regardless, winner of the 1874 Alabama Stakes

Merciless, winner of the 1876 Alabama Stakes

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