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Wednesday, July 5
Great Match Race still haunts jockey




ELMONT, N.Y. -- Twenty-five years later, jockey Braulio Baeza can still recall the sound.

"I'll never forget it," Baeza said. "It sounded like a dry stick snapping."

It was not a stick but the right front ankle of Ruffian that Baeza heard snap during the Great Match Race between the remarkable 3-year-old filly and Kentucky Derby winner Foolish Pleasure. Thursday is the 25th anniversary of that defining event, which took place before 50,764 fans at Belmont Park and a national television audience watching on CBS.

Despite attempts to save her, Ruffian had to be euthanized.

Baeza was aboard Foolish Pleasure, who raced outside of Ruffian and Jacinto Vasquez through a wicked quarter run in 22.60 seconds. A little more than a furlong later, Baeza heard the snap. Baeza saw Vasquez try to pull Ruffian up.

"I looked back and yelled out to Jacinto 'Hold on, hold on' " said Baeza, who now works as an assistant clerk of scales for the New York Racing Association. "I knew something went wrong. It's not a normal sound."

While several veterinarians attended to Ruffian, Baeza had to continue galloping around the Belmont Park main track. After all, the race was worth $250,000 to the winner, a huge amount of money at that time. It turned out to be one of the more hollow victories in Baeza's Hall of Fame career.

"It was hollow, it was no victory," Baeza said. "We lost one of the greatest horses ever."

Leroy Jolley, the trainer of Foolish Pleasure, said he really didn't want to participate in the race. He watched the horror unfold through his binoculars while watching from the grandstand.

"It was a total surprise, a total shock to see one of them pull up," Jolley said. "It seemed like it took an hour after she pulled up for Foolish Pleasure to get to the finish line. What was going through my mind was let this thing be over with.

"My major concern was was my horse all right," Jolley added. "That may sound selfish but that was my first concern. Then I felt a great deal of shock."

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