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Citation was born to run

Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Citation unmatched for 25 years
By Bob Diskin
Special to

Signature Race
May 1, 1948 - With only six horses, the Kentucky Derby had its smallest field since 1907. Few believed Citation could be beaten. There was only straight betting on the race, and Citation and Calumet Farm stablemate Coaltown were the 2-5 favorites.

Coaltown led by six lengths in the backstretch, but Citation, with Eddie Arcaro aboard, caught him as they headed for the homestretch. Then Citation pulled away to a 3-length victory over Coaltown in 2:05 2/5 before a crowd of close to 100,000 in Louisville. He earned $83,400 of the $111,450 purse for Calumet Farm and $2.80 to his backers.

Arcaro was the first jockey to win four Kentucky Derbies. He got the ride on Citation after the horse's regular rider, Al Snider, went boating and never returned, presumed lost at sea. Arcaro gave half of his Derby winnings to Snider's widow.

While Ben Jones tied the record for trainers by saddling his fourth Derby winner, it was his son Jimmy who did most of the work with Citation.

Citation will go on to win the Preakness and Belmont, becoming the fourth horse to win the Triple Crown in the forties. He will be the last Triple Crown winner for 25 years, until Secretariat in 1973.

Odds 'n' Ends

  • Citation suffered his only defeat as a two-year-old in the Washington Futurity to his stablemate, two-year-old filly champion Bewitch.

  • Citation's victory in the Seminole Handicap in 1948 at Hialeah, where he defeated 1947 Horse of the Year Armed, impressed "Sunny Jim" Fitzsimmons, who had trained Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox and Omaha. "Up to this point, Citation has done more than any horse I ever saw," he said, "and I saw Man o' War."

  • In Citation's only loss as a three-year-old, to Saggy in the Chesapeake Stakes Trial, jockey Eddie Arcaro blamed himself for the defeat. Riding Citation for the first time, Arcaro said he was forced wide into the stretch, leaving Citation too much to do in the late running.

  • Before the Kentucky Derby, Arcaro was worried that he might be on the wrong horse. In 1942, Arcaro had been given the choice of Devil Diver or Shut Out in the Run for The Roses. He took the former and watched from sixth place as Shut Out won. Ben Jones assured him that if he thought Coaltown had a better chance of winning, Arcaro would be riding him and not Citation.

  • The 2-5 odds on Citation and Coaltown remain, along with a similar price on Count Fleet in 1943, the shortest price on a Derby horse since the beginning of parimutual wagering in 1940.

  • Citation was the first horse to win the Derby after taking the Belmont Futurity, at that time considered the premier race for juveniles.

  • He was also the first Derby Trial winner to follow up with a win on the following Saturday. The Trial was run four days before the Derby.

  • When asked if he was entering his horse Escadru in the Preakness, trainer E.A. Christmas asked his questioner if Citation had bowed two tendons because "bowing one wouldn't be enough to get me to run against him."

  • After Citation won the Sysonby Mile on Sept. 29, 1948, at Belmont beating older horses, Alfred Vanderbilt's groom said, "Boss, that there horse just ain't human."

  • Three days later, Citation beat the best routers in the country in the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup at Aqueduct.

  • Arcaro said Citation was never the same after suffering two major injuries and missing the 1949 season as a four-year-old.

  • In Citation's last six races in 1950, three world records were set, one world record was equaled, one track record was set and one American record was established. Citation set the mark for a mile and finished second in the other five, four times to Noor and once to Bolero.

  • In his 45 starts, Citation was sent to the post at odds-on an incredible 37 times.

  • Besides his 32 wins, Citation ran second 10 times, third twice and fifth once.

  • Longtime racing writer Joe Palmer said, "He [Citation] was the best, a good sound horse who beat everyone with a smile on his face. I haven't seen anyone like him. I don't think I ever will."

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