Citation’s Pimlico Special walkover, 1948

May 16th 2012 12:08 pm |

On Friday, Pimlico Race Course will card the Pimlico Special as part of Black Eyed Susan Day. The Pimlico Special is a race of major historical significance that has fallen on hard times in recent years. It will lose its grading this year and hasn’t been run since 2008. The race has two distinct histories, the first from 1937 to 1958 and the second from 1988 to 2007. Even with a thirty year hiatus from 1959 to 1987, it has an impressive roll call of high quality and, in some cases, legendary winners.

According to the Bloodhorse, fifteen Horse of the Year winners have won the Pimlico Special in its forty-one runnings. Four Triple Crown winners (War Admiral, Whirlaway, Assault, and Citation) occupied the winner’s circle during the first era.  Horses of some renown have won it during its second era including Cigar, Skip Away, and Invasor.

Two of the Triple Crown winners that won the Pimlico Special did so in walkovers — that is, they were the lone entry in the race. The race’s founder, Pimlico owner and president Alfred G. Vanderbilt, made the purse a winner-take-all so also-rans walked away with nothing. When Whirlaway and Citation entered the race in 1942 and 1948, no other owner felt it worthwhile to send their steeds against those two legends without a payday for running second.

The 1948 Pimlico Special marked the high point for one of the greatest thoroughbreds of all-time. Citation entered the ‘Special’ having won twenty-four of twenty-six career races and twelve straight. By the time the invitations were sent out to owners of the best thoroughbreds in the nation for the Pimlico Special at the end of October, they all concluded it would to be a wasted trip. Citation had proven himself unbeatable.

Citation's walkover remembered in a 1951 Life Magazine ad for PM Whiskey -- click to enlarge

The great race writer Walter Haight of the Washington Post covered the Pimlico Special with his characteristic attention to detail. Below is a selection of quotes from the Post’s coverage of Citation’s walkover.

On October 25th 1948, before the race was drawn, Walter Haight in an article titled “Who’s Afraid of Citation? Everybody!” wrote:

On Friday comes the $25,000 Pimlico Special. Citation is at the Baltimore track waiting. Trainer Jimmy Jones says he’s ready to meet all comers. But where are the comers? Seems they’re all afraid of the big, bad Citation. At this writing there’s not a single horse owner or trainer who will risk his charge against the season’s 3-year-old champion…

John Heil, vice president in charge of reserve seats, reports an almost sellout demand. He says customers aren’t asking about Citation’s opposition, all they want to know is if Citation will be there.”

A few days later, Haight had this in a race preview titled “Citation’s in a Class by Himself Today at Pimlico”:

Citation drew no. 1 post position. In fact, Citation can break from any part of the starting gate his handlers so desire for the horse of the year, if not the century, runs alone today. No chance to pick a loser in this event, listed as the sixth race at Pimlico and better knows as the $10,000 winner-take-all Pmlico Special…

Despite the lack of a contest the Special will be surrounded with the usual trimmings, which include the appearance of the Maryland Jockey Club band; a special blanket for Citation in the stable colors with his name on the side and the traditional case of champagne for the winning stable.

Citation will go to the paddock to be saddled, just as in a regular race and will be led onto the track in the usual post parade.”

Reporting on the race result on October 30th 1948, Haight wrote:

Citation won today on his press clippings.

The Calument comet ran over the 1 3/16-mile course to score a walkover victory in the famous Pimlico Special and take down the $10,000 purse the easy way.

Owner Warren Wright saw a horse in his colors turn in a solitary special effort for the second time – Whirlaway also turned the trick – and promptly gave the ten grand to the Damon Runyan Memorial Cancer Fund….

Every move of the horse of the year was roundly applauded by a crowd of 11,620 which got a big laugh when Don Reed, the public address system announcer, said ‘the result is official.’

The ‘race’ was put on in big league fashion, including a post parade, a flag start, etc. Citation returned from the little more than a workout to be blanketed with chrysanthemums in the winner’s circle.

Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who conceived the idea for the Special, presented the trophy to Warren Wright as trainers Jimmy and Ben Jones looked on.”

Articles after the Pimlico Special indicate that everyone of sound mind, including trainer Ben Jones, believed Citation’s historic 3-year-old campaign ended with his walkover in Baltimore. However, on the instruction of owner Warren Wright, he did race again in 1948 at Tanforan in California, where he suffered an injury that cost him his 4-year-old season. He returned to the races in 1950, but he was never as good as he was running around the Pimlico track alone on the 29th of October 1948.

Sources, News, and Notes

“Who’s Afraid of Citation? Everybody!” Washington Post, 25 October 1948

“Citation’s in a Class by Himself Today in Pimlico Special,” Washington Post, 29 October 1948

“Purse Given for Runyon Cancer Fund,” Washington Post, 30 October 1948

I will be in the house for the Preakness this Saturday. I am writing a race preview for CBS Local and will send a link to it via the Colin’s Ghost email list as soon as its published. Don’t have a pick yet but I am having a hard time getting past Bodemeister considering the lack of pace signed on for the race.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him wire the field and win by open lengths but will likely convince myself to pick one of the more appealing colts from a betting perspective like Creative Cause or Went the Day Well.

Thanks for reading!

Filed in Citation,Horse of the Year,horse racing,horse racing history,Pimlico Race Track,Pimlico Special

5 Responses to “Citation’s Pimlico Special walkover, 1948”

  1. Glimmerglass says:

    Always an enjoyable, researched bit of history you provide to the audience. I doubt most people knew that Calumet gave away the sizable winnings for the ‘paid workout’ to charity.

    One minor point is that the 2012 Pimlico Special actually is graded this year. It is tagged as a Grade 3 race for 2012. See the equibase record:

  2. Kevin says:

    Thanks for the correction!

  3. White Camry says:

    When looking into this two notable curiosities emerge:

    Cy’s Pimlico Special walkover time (1:59 4/5) was faster than his Preakness time earlier that year (2:02 2/5). Both were the same distance at the same track. What’s so odd is that this runs counter to the general supposition that horses run faster when competing than when alone.

    The other curiosity is that today we see these times in 10-furlong races like the Kentucky Derby rather than in 9.5-furlong races. For example, Louis Quatorze won the 1996 Preakness in 1:53.40.

  4. Don Reed says:

    “Every move of the horse of the year was roundly applauded by a crowd of 11,620 which got a big laugh when Don Reed, the public address system announcer, said ‘the result is official.’ ”

    I did not say this. What I announced was, “There is a steward’s inquiry.”

    Kidding. First time I’ve ever heard about DR the announcer (the race occurred four years prior to my birth).

  5. Teddy Lopez says:

    The great Eddie Arcaro who rode both citation and, Kelso later on, ws asked who was the better horse and, he said that as long as citations’ trainer was alive that he never wanted to break his heart. Arcaro actually litterilly said in one particular interview, ‘Man, Kelso would have beaten the crap out of citation’. Well, go look up who did more. It’s kelso that holds the record 3 times for the 2 miles which citation ran in a slower timing than he did. One of the scariest points about the great kelso is that only 9 horses in the 87 year history have won the jockey gold cup twice, king kelly did it 5 times, 5 years in a row, that’s a real tuff one to argue with. Bloodhorse have got Kelsos’ great grandfather man of war 1st, secretariat 2nd, citation 3rd and, Kelso 4th of the top 100 horses of all-times. They oughta change that and, I have called them about it, and, there are a few kelso fans there. First of all, some experts put the great kelso in a simulated computor race againts his greatgrandfather man of war and, they had kelso winning by a head. Mind you, remember kelso was a smaller horse with shorter legs and, you know what that means, shorter strides, which means a little horse like kelso was covering less ground, yet look at all his timings. Secretariat has been accused of being juiced up on steroids and, he sure looked like he was, he never did get to proof all kelso did. I would have liked to seen sec tested with more than 126 pounds which he never carried more than. Oh and, I found out that they could have put more than 126 pounds on sec, they knew what they were doing. Funny, the horse that holds the secound fastest time for the 2 miles ever after kelso is proove out who beat secretariat once and, who secs’ people never faced again. By the way, proove out was giving away 6 pounds to sec in that particular race. There is long talking that they were ducking proove out after that. He was no fluke, proove out did get to beat 4 hall of famers! He was one of Allen Jerkens horses, who was known as the upsetter. Jerkens did beat kelso 3 times but, miss Dupont[kelsos’ owner] did not duck him and, finally beat the crap out beau purple the last time around. You wonder what exactly Eddie Arcaro meant when he said ‘once in a while I would hold kelso back so that they wouldn’t put even more weight on him’! As far as citation goes, I already said what Eddie Arcaro said himself who rode both citation and, kelso. Just compare what they did.The only thing kelso didn’t do that ignorant people knock him for, was the triple crown. However they don’t know or, just don’t want to mention how the great kelso did beat some horses that had won some of the triple crown races when he became the first horse ever to be voted best 3 year old and ,not win the triple crown! Don’t don’t mention that the great kelso became one of only 4 horses to ever win the handicapped triple crown, which being that it’s a handicapped race is even harder. That only 4 horses have ever won the handicapped triple crown is scary enough. Secretariat lost 5 races as it was and, he never carried more than 126 pounds and never gave away much weight to the other horses. So, so much for that bloodhorse 4 tops. They definately should change that. Just look at what Eddie Arcaro said about citation being better than kelso, again he said kelso would have beaten the crap out of citation but, no, bloodhorse has citation 3rd and the great kelso 4th. Kelso should be no.1 which he really is, for he also beat more great horses and good horses than any other horse in history and, that’s for sure. Let’s see another horse set a record on dirt and then 11 days later set a record on grass, you could go on about kelso. Poor kelso they worked him real hard and, made alot of money off him.They say when kelso was brought back to belmont cause his many many fans wanted to see him again, he was there with forego, kelso was 26 and forgo was 13, people who were there said kelso still looked as young as forego! It was in kelsos’ genes, so many great horses came out of man of war. Oh, and, except for the genes nobody really though that since kelso was such a small colt that he would turn out to be such a great horse, never mind the greatest. His is one heck of a story, wow what a great movie they could make out of him. They should. Kelsos’ biggest fan.