Ruhlmann, the seven-time stakes-winning stallion and winner of the 1990 Santa Anita Handicap (gr. I), died Dec. 24 at the age of 23, Old Friends owner Michael Blowen said.
Ruhlmann had been pensioned at the Thoroughbred retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky., since 2004. Ruhlmann was found shortly after being brought up from his paddock for the night.
Dr. Doug Byars concluded that the horse died instantly, most likely from an aneurysm, Old Friends reported Dec. 26. A full autopsy report is pending.
Ruhlmann (Mr. Leader—Indian Maiden by Chieftain) was owned and campaigned by Jerry and Ann Moss of California, who donated the horse to Old Friends in 2004 under an endowment. The following spring, the Mosses went on to win the 2005 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) with their colt Giacomo and most recently won the 2008 Breeder’s Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I) with the undefeated Zenyatta.
During his racing career, Ruhlman defeated some of the best horses of his generation, including Easy Goer and Sunday Silence. In all, he won 10 of 27 starts for earnings of $1,824,154, according to The Jockey Club.
Ruhlmann’s grade I victories came in the 1989 Meryn LeRoy Handicap at Hollywood Park and the 1990 Santa Anita Handicap. He won the San Bernardino Handicap (gr. II) at Santa Anita Park twice (1989-90), and as a 3-year-old won the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Bay Meadows.
The colt’s most stunning victory may well have been the 1990 Big ’Cap with jockey Gary Stevens aboard. In the Big ’Cap, Ruhlmann vanquished the favorite, Bayakoa, as well as Criminal Type, who would later become his turf rival.
The two faced off five more times that year. Criminal Type won the matchup 3-2 and earned Horse of the Year honors.
“I’m devoted to all of our retirees, but Ruhlmann has always had a very special place in my heart,” Blowen said in a statement. “He will be sorely missed by all of us at Old Friends and by his many fans and admirers who visited him often.
“We’re deeply grateful to Jerry and Ann Moss and Dottie and David Ingordo for trusting us with their amazing athlete. Ruhlmann was, after all, the first Thoroughbred donated to Old Friends by his owners, and it sent the message to the rest of the racing world that we were OK. They have subsequently sent us Kudos, who has been doing great (at Old Friends).”
Plans for Ruhlmann's burial and memorial service will be announced the week of Dec. 28.