Ruthless: First Belmont belonged to a filly

Ruthless, winner of the 1867 Belmont Stakes, from an Edward Troye painting. 


Hall of Famer also won 1867 Travers Stakes

By Brien Bouyea
Hall of Fame and Communications Director 

Ruthless was exactly what her name suggested she was.

The most accomplished of the famed “Barbarous Battalion,” Ruthless earned her high place in racing history by winning the first edition of the Belmont Stakes in 1867 at Jerome Park and the fourth running of the Travers later that summer at Saratoga.

Bred and raced by Francis Morris, Ruthless was sired by Eclipse (GB) out of the Simoom (GB) mare Barbarity (IRE). Foaled in New York at her owner’s farm in Westchester County, Ruthless was the first of five full sisters by Eclipse out of Barabrity. Along with Ruthless, there was Relentless (winner of the Saratoga Stakes in her lone start, defeating subsequent Belmont winner General Duke), Remorseless (champion 2-year-old filly of 1869 when she won the Flash, Nursery, Saratoga, and Hunter stakes), Regardless (winner of the Flash, Monmouth Oaks, and Alabama), and Merciless (winner of the Alabama).

A strapping bay of 16 hands, Ruthless was the best of these great sisters.

As a 2-year-old in 1866, Ruthless was trained by William Brown. She made her debut in the all-scarlet silks of her owner on July 28 at Saratoga in the Saratoga Stakes at one mile, finishing second to Red Wing. Two days later, she broke her maiden at Saratoga, defeating August Belmont’s Maid of Honor, Red Wing, and three colts for a $500 purse. On Oct. 1, 1866, Ruthless won the Nursery Stakes at Jerome Park, again defeating Maid of Honor, as well as two other colts. Nine days later, she finished second to stablemate Monday in the Trial Stakes at Paterson, N.J., concluding her juvenile season with two wins and two seconds in four starts.

For her 3-year-old campaign, Ruthless was trained by A. J. Minor and ridden by Hall of Famer Gilbert W. Patrick, also known as “Gilpatrick,” who had ridden champions such as Boston and Lexington. Ruthless opened her sophomore season with a victory in the Spring Stakes at Jerome Park on May 23, 1867. She returned one day later and won a $500 purse, defeating Leonard Jerome’s 5-year-old Luther. On June 4, 1867, Ruthless finished second to stablemate Monday in the 1½-mile Jersey Derby. Monday was a standout colt, winning five of his seven starts, including the Paterson Derby and Sequel Stakes. His only defeats were to Ruthless in his first and final races.

Fifteen days after the Jersey Derby, Ruthless defeated three colts — De Courcey, Rivoli, and Monday — in the first running of the Belmont Stakes, which was contested at 1⅝ miles at Jerome Park. Patrick was credited with a clever ride on Ruthless that led to a neck victory over De Courcey. In its report on the inaugural Belmont, the New York Times described Ruthless as “the best three-year-old now on the turf” following her victory “by a short neck after a most exciting finish.”

Seven weeks after her victory in the Belmont, Ruthless confirmed her superiority over colts by winning the Travers, contested at 1¾ miles. She was the second filly to win the race, following Maiden, winner of the 1865 running. Ruthless won once more, defeating Virgil and De Courcey in the two-mile Sequel Stakes at Saratoga five days after her Travers win. On Sept. 1, she finished second in the 2¼-mile Jersey St. Leger, failing in her attempt to give weight and a beating to De Courcey for a fifth time.

A leg injury while training that fall prompted Morris to retire Ruthless with a career record of 7-4-0 from 11 starts and earnings of $11,000. Ruthless was bred to Monday, producing the colt Battle Axe, winner of the Kentucky Stakes at Saratoga.

In 1876, a vagrant hunter shot Ruthless while she grazed in her paddock. The particulars of the incident are unclear. Some reports suggested the hunter mistook Ruthless for a deer while others speculated the shooter was drunk. Ruthless fought for five weeks before dying in November at the age of 12. 

Turf historian Walter S. Vosburgh said Ruthless was the best filly he ever saw. The only fillies to win the Belmont since Ruthless are Tanya (1905) and Rags to Riches (2007). Ruthless was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1975.


Lifespan: 1864  ̶  1876
Pedigree: Eclipse (GB)—Barbarity (IRE), by Simoom (GB)
Breeder: Francis Morris
Owner: Francis Morris
Trainer: A. J. Minor
Career dates: 1866  ̶  1867
Record: 11 starts, 7 wins, 4 seconds
Earnings: $11,000

  • Inducted into the Hall of Fame 1975


  • Won the Nursery Stakes 1866
  • Won the inaugural Belmont Stakes 1867
  • Won the Travers Stakes 1867
  • Won the Sequel Stakes 1867
Posted Jun 2, 2021
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