Apr 10th 2013 09:00 am |
As I have written here in the past, I think Citation’s 3-year-old season stands alone in racing history. An article from the Turf & Sport Digest published in May 1948 titled “The Latest Calumet Sensation” provides a unique perspective on the amazing Citation during his greatest year.
The article was written during a moment in history when Citation was beginning to create the hype that is all too common for 3-year-olds at this time of year but rarely justified. In the early spring of 1948 the racing intelligentsia made bold claims about the Calumet colt before he swept the Triple Crown and finished his 3-year-old season with nineteen wins from twenty starts.
The Turf and Sport Digest featured Citation in their May issue in an article written prior to him being shipped from Hialeah in Florida to Havre de Grace in Maryland. Citation would lose to a colt named Saggy at Havre de Grace, his only loss in 1948. Nothing more then a slight mishap, albeit a shocking one, during the most dominant 3-year-old campaign of the 20th century. Here is an early look at that incredible season from writer O’Neil Sevier:
“Calumet’s latest bidder for racing fame may prove the greatest. Anyhow that is the opinion of the writing crystal gazers who pick Kentucky Derby, Preakness,and Belmont winners months ahead of the annual revivals of those races, also of hundreds of shrewd horsemen who have been watching the new three-year-olds do their stuff. Without exception the writers that go in for pre-derby prediction have already conceded the big cuts of the Kentucky Derby and and Preakness purses to Citation.
Frank Ortell, of the Scripps-Howard [news] chain, has gone further. Taking his neck in his hands, so to speak, Ortell has declared that nothing short of a breakdown can prevent Citation’s winning every heavily pursed race for three-year-olds in which he may be pointed…
…I have yet to encounter a racing regular who saw Citation in action at Hialeah who has not been superlatively extravagant in his praise of the son of Bull Lea. According to habit all proclaim him the ‘best three-year-old prospect since Man o’ War…[Trainer] Ben Jones, who is as good a judge of racing material as any horseman extant, has called him not only the best horse he ever had the handling of, but the best of any age in the world today and the best stud prospect of the immediate future…
…Hard headed, ‘show us’ old timers are convinced that Citation could have won the eleventh Widener [Handicap]”
The Widener Handicap was run a week before Citation won the Flamingo Handicap at Hialeah. Citation won the Flamingo, a race for 3-year-olds, under 126 pounds by seven lengths. The Widener was open to older horses and included, among its stellar field, reigning Horse of the Year Armed and Triple Crown winner Assault. The winner of the Widener, El Mono, set the Hialeah track record for 1 1/4 miles while carrying 112 pounds. As a 3-year-old, Citation would have been low weight at 104 pounds and, borrowing the words of O’Neil Sevier, the ‘old hard heads’ thought he would have beaten the best of the breed stabled in Florida during the winter of 1948.
According to Sevier, it was after the Flamingo that trainer Ben Jones began his “big talking” about Citation. Keep in mind that Ben Jones also trained Armed, who was an also-ran in the Widener under 130 pounds, and finished behind Citation in two early season sprint races in 1948. That’s right, Citation beat older horses, including Armed, in his first two starts as a 3-year-old. While Armed was not his best as a sprinter, Citation still gets the credit for beating the reigning Horse of the Year twice in a span of nine days before the calendar turned to March of his second racing season. It’s no wonder that many experts believed that Citation could have beaten any horse of any age before he swept the Triple Crown.
In the Turf & Sport article, Sevier joined the chorus of bold predictions a few weeks away from the first Saturday in May. He agreed with Frank Ortell that nothing but a breakdown would stop Citation from sweeping all of the major 3-year-old races but went a step further when he wrote:
If the Bull Lea colt can keep going through his second season I believe that he will be the first horse anywhere in the world to earn half a million dollars in a single season.”
Sevier wasn’t bold enough. Citation ended 1948 with $709,470 in earnings. More importantly, Sevier correctly predicted that Citation would become the greatest of the many great ones bred and raced by the legendary Calumet Farm.
There is nothing sweeter in racing to watch a 3-year-old out-run his hype. Citation is one of the few who did.
SOURCES, NEWS, AND NOTES
O’Niel Sevier, “The Latest Calumet Sensation,” Turf & Sport Digest, May 1948
Citation has been an frequently covered topic here at Colin’s Ghost, check out all the past Citation posts here
It’s hard to believe that we are less then a month away from Derby…
Thanks for reading and good luck!