Bewitch: The Gal who Beat Citation, 1947

Feb 16th 2009 01:00 pm |

On August 16, 1947, Calumet Farms sent three offspring of their sire Bull Lea to face each other in the Washington Park Futurity in Chicago. Among the two year olds was Citation and a brilliant filly named Bewitch (pictured, right). In a result that received the most attention for the fact that the three Calumet runners ran 1-2-3, the filly beat the mighty Citation, the horse many consider the greatest of all time.

Both Citation and Bewitch entered the race undefeated. Bewitch had won her first seven starts while Citation was perfect in five races. The legitimacy of her victory in Chicago is one that is still questioned to this day — more on that later.

Chicago Tribune race writer, Maurice Shevlin, saw the race like this:

“Ben and Jimmy Jones, directors of the racing destinies of Warren Wright’s Calumet farm, made believers of 29,000 followers of the sport of kings yesterday at Washington Park when they sent Bewitch, Citation, and Free America out to finish in that order in the ninth running of the $78,050 Washington Park Futurity.

“The sensational Bewitch, little brown daughter of Bull Lea-Potheen, virtually coasted to a length victory over Citation, which beat Free America by a head in the six furlong dash which attracted seven other juveniles. Fourth place went to Hal Price Headley’s Pinebloom…

‘…Bewitch’s triumph, in the fast time of 1:10 2/5, was the filly’s eighth straight without a defeat and added $63,150 to her year’s earnings to move her up into second place behind Top Flight; holder of the world’s record for juvenile money earnings. Her total now stands at $206,875 as compared with Top Flight’s $219,000…”

MY COMMENT: Betwitch would fall $6000 short of Top Flight’s juvenile earnings record.

“…Doug Dodson rode the winner and handled her expertly in an early fight for the lead with Norman W. Church’s May Reward. It didn’t last long, however, for as they went out of the back stretch into the far turn, the little filly moved ahead and gradually assumed a four length lead. At the half mile Pinebloom, piloted by Al Snider, made his move and went into second place as May Reward faded. Turning into the stretch, Steve Brooks got Citation in full swing while Free America, with Jackie Westrope up, came swinging out to the center of the track in fourth place.

“As they finished by the grandstand, Bewitch still had a good advantage, but both Citation and Free America were showing more speed – not enough to overtake the game youngster, but plenty to banish all other competition”

Bewitch with Paul Ebelhardt (right), Calumet Farm manager,
Ben Jones, and an unidentified groom
(American Race Horses, 1949)

By early 1948, controversy surrounding the race would lead to questions about the legitimacy of Bewitch’s victory.

In a Chicago Tribune story about her nomination to the Kentucky Derby in March 1948, Shevlin wrote: “Bewitch beat [Citation] in the Washington Park Futurity and Citation that day didn’t seem to be trying as hard as in his other races.” This is one of first indications in contemporary accounts that suggest anything less than an honestly run race. Neither the Associated Press or the Tribune mentioned anything about the effort of the two horses that finished behind Bewitch in their reporting immediately following the race.

The controversy would be reported in great detail by famed racing announcer Phil Georgeff in his excellent book about Citation published in 2003.

According to Georgeff, the three jockeys riding the Calumet trio agreed to split purse money so no one rider would upstage the other. In addition, he wrote that trainer Jimmy Jones gave a “stern order” prior to the race telling his riders, “Whoever is in front in the stretch should be allowed to win the whole thing.”

Steve Brooks, Citation’s rider for the race, told Georgeff, “I never touched Citation [an assertion confirmed by a film of the race] but there was a tremendous explosion under me. It was as if Cy were asleep – and I woke him up! I just chriped to him, let loose the reins ever so slightly and he came alive like a wild horse. He scared the hell out of me! He started picking up Bewitch with every stride. Remember, I was not supposed to beat her. That was our deal.”

But, of course, evidence exists that contradicts these accounts.

Bewitch’s jockey Doug Dodson said, “Bewitch won the race with such authority, she could’ve won by any margin I wanted. She was just coasting at the end.” Jack Drees who called the race on local radio told Georgeff that her victory was an “extraordinary display of speed and class…she could have won by fifteen lengths if Dodson let her.” The Daily Racing Form comment “ridden out” and the Tribune article saying she “coasted” to victory seems to confirm that the race was legitimate.

Nearly sixty years later, the truth remains elusive. Considering what Citation did as a three-year-old, it would make sense for his fans to carry on the story about his loss to Bewitch. Phil Georgeff’s book is outstanding but his unwavering love of Cy and his belief that he is the greatest in modern history makes his take on the race less than objective.

Whatever the truth may be, Bewitch was beaten by Citation two months later in the Belmont Futurity — the first loss of Bewitch’s career. Calumet announced after the race that Bewitch had an injured ankle. As the only filly nominated to the Kentucky Derby, she won her first race at three in the Ashland at Keeneland but bucked her shins and missed the First Saturday in May. After winning her first nine starts she would win 11 out of next 46 races.

In 1951, during her final racing season, she faced Citation in California and ran second to the Triple Crown winner twice. Both horses, by this time, had lost quite a bit of the brilliance they showed at two and three. Bewitch raced against the boys twelve times during her less then stellar final season (two wins from fifteen starts.) During the same period, Citation won three of seven including his final race in the Hollywood Gold Cup (pictured below). In an era, when horses a retired too soon, it is amazing to think that these two great horses were still racing four years after their dominant early years.

In the ’51 Gold Cup, the same race that Citation became the first horse to amass over one million in earnings, Bewitch ran second and passed the great Gallorrette as the richest of her sex. She retired with over $460,000 in earnings.


“Calumet Sweeps $78,050 Futurity,” Chicago Tribune, August 17, 1947
“Undefeated Bewitch Paces Calumet Trio to Sweep of Washington Park Futurity,”
New York Times, August 17, 1947
Maurice Shelvin, “Bewitch Only Filly Named for Kentucky Derby,”
Chicago Tribune, March 8, 1948
Photos of Bewitch from
American Race Horses, 1949
Photo of Citation and Bewitch in the 1951 Hollywood Gold Cup from
American Racing Manual, 1952
Past Performances from DRF’s

Phil Georgeff, Citation: In a Class by Himself, 2003. I have used this book as a source for previous articles and can’t recommend it enough. Excellent account of Citation’s spectacular career.

Bewitch’s Hall of Fame page

For an article on Citation, check out this one by Paul Moran. The design behind the article is beautiful — hope Churchill does something similar again this year.


Filed in Bewitch,Brooks, Steve,Calumet Farms,Citation,Dodson, Doug,Ebelhardt, Paul,Jones, Ben,thoroughbred racing history,Washington Park Futurity

One Response to “Bewitch: The Gal who Beat Citation, 1947”

  1. Bill Marshall says:

    The rumor you mention has pretty wide circulation. John Clark devotes some space to it in his book of reminiscences, “Trader Clark.” As Clark reports it, not only did Brooks have a stranglehold on Citation, but Jack Westrope had Free America bent double to keep the order as it was down the stretch. According to Clark, Jimmy Jones orchestrated the fee-split and the plan. As the three Calumet horses ran coupled, the betting public was not disadvantaged. The practice of a stable designating a winner has a long history. Price McGrath tried to accomplish it in the first Kentucky Derby, desiring to win with Chesapeake, but things didn’t work when the owner’s choice did not perform well. He is said to have waived to the rider of his second entrant to “go on” and Aristides galloped home a winner.