12/12/2011 11:16AM



Excerpt from the "Champions" chapter, "War Horses: The 1940’s," by David Grening

"Champions" brings to life Thoroughbred royalty from past to present with over 550 complete lifetime past performances of racing's elite, more than 135 rare photographs and illustrations, and a decade-by-decade recounting of Thoroughbred history by the sport's leading journalists. This third edition of the classic coffee-table book is a must-have for every racing enthusiast. Buy Champions Now-- Free shipping this week only

View Citation's lifetime PPs

In the second half (of the decade), racing enthusiasts were treated to a pair of Triple Crown winners that included Citation, arguably the top Thoroughbred of all time. The bay son of Bull Lea topped Calumet’s amazing run with a 16-race winning streak that began on April 17, 1948, and lasted through January 11, 1950. Despite an injury that sidelined him a year, Citation became the first million-dollar earner in the sport and set a standard for greatness that few, if any, would ever match.

Citation was 5 for 5 and Bewitch was 7 for 7 when the two met in the Washington Park Futurity on August 16. Citation defeated Bewitch in Belmont’s Futurity and finished his season with a three-length romp in the Pimlico Futurity. He was a unanimous choice for champion 2-year-old colt. Citation, who was primarily trained by Jimmy Jones, began his 3-year-old career by defeating older horses in his first start. Among his victims in the six-furlong race was Armed, whom he would beat again in the Seminole Handicap nine days later.

Citation's 19 victories in 1948

12/11/48 Tanforan 1 1/4 5 2:02.80 Easily best
12/3/48 Tanforan 6F 1 1/2 1:12 In hand
10/29/48 Pimlico 1 3/16 Walkover 1:59.80 Breezing
10/16/48 Belmont 1 5/8 2 2:42.80 In hand
10/2/48 Belmont 2 7 3:21.60 Easily
9/29/48 Belmont 1 3 1:36 Eased up
8/28/48 Washington 1 1/4 1 2:01.60 Driving
8/21/48 Washington 6F 2 1/2 1:10.80 Easily
7/5/48 Arlington 1 1/8 2 1:49.20 Driving
6/12/48 Belmont 1 1/2 8 2:28.20 Much the best
5/29/48 Garden State 1 1/4 11 2:03 Eased up
5/15/48 Pimlico 1 3/16 5 1/2 2:02.40 Galloping
5/1/48 Churchill 1 1/4 3 1/2 2:05.40 Drew away
4/27/48 Churchill 1 1 1/4 1:37.40 Easily
4/17/48 Havre de Grace 1 1/16 4 1/2 1:45.80 Easily
4/12/48 Havre de Grace 6f (Second) 1:12.40 Carried wide
2/28/48 Hialeah 1 1/8 6 1:48.80 Easily
2/18/48 Hialeah 1 1/8 1 1:49 Easily
2/11/48 Hialeah 7F 1 1:23 Handily
2/2/48 Hialeah 6F 1 1:10.40 Handily

Returning to his own division, Citation won two more races, the Everglades and the Flamingo, as he competed four times in 26 days during February. After his victory in the Flamingo, Wright was offered $250,000 for Citation. Upon hearing of the offer, Jimmy Jones was quoted as saying, “Whoever buys this horse has got to buy me too, because I’m going with him.”

Citation lost his regular jockey in March when Albert Snider drowned while fishing in the Florida Keys. Jones said Snider “fit Citation better than anybody.” Eddie Arcaro, who became Citation’s rider, lost the first time he rode him when they were carried wide in the Chesapeake Trial at Havre de Grace and finished second to a colt called Saggy. Citation proved the result a fluke five days later when he beat Saggy by 151⁄2 lengths in the Chesapeake Stakes. Thus began the bay colt’s 16-race winning streak, which of course included the 1948 Triple Crown.

In the Derby, Citation followed stablemate Coaltown until the stretch, when Arcaro began a steady hand ride that propelled him past Coaltown and on to a 31⁄2-length victory. Two weeks later, against only three rivals in the Preakness, Citation went wire to wire, winning by 51⁄2 lengths. In need of activity before the Belmont, he set a track record winning the Jersey Stakes at Garden State in a track record of 2:03 for 10 furlongs.

Then came the Belmont. A slight stumble at the start provided the lone anxious moment as Citation again went gate to wire, winning by eight lengths in a gallop that was only three-fifths of a second off the track record. He missed some of the summer with a strained back, but went on to win nine more races that year, including the Jockey Club Gold Cup, which he won under double wraps.

“Truly the best one we ever had,” Jimmy Jones said. “I never saw a better one.”

His last race of 1948 was the 11⁄4-mile Tanforan Handicap at Tanforan Park in San Francisco. Jimmy Jones was not keen on running Citation there, but was doing a friend a favor. Eugene Mori had taken over the track and wanted to turn San Francisco into a racing center, and there was no better way to do that than have the sport’s brightest star shine on your racetrack.

Citation romped in a six-furlong prep on December 3; eight days later, he treated 24,809 fans to a track record of 2:024⁄5 in his five-length victory in the Tanforan Handicap, but the race proved to be his undoing. According to Jones, there was concrete on the bottom of the racing strip and Citation injured his ankle. He would never be the same. In the winter of 1949, over Jones’s objection, Wright had a veterinarian pin-fire the ankle. It didn’t help. Citation would not race that year, and when he came back, he was a mere shell of his former self. While he did win his first start back – his 16th victory in a row – he would only take one of his next 12. Of course, the lone triumph was spectacular, as he set a world record of 1:333⁄5 in the Golden Gate Mile.

Determined to make Citation the first equine millionaire, Wright, whose health was failing, opted to keep him in training. The owner died on December 28, 1950, but the quest continued under the direction of his widow, and seven months later Citation topped the million-dollar mark by winning the Hollywood Gold Cup. He promptly was retired with earnings of $1,085,760.

“He would have been better off if he had never run in those races in California,” Jones said. “He should never be judged on his races after that injury.”