Name:Harrison Location:United States

The Original Lovable Little Fuzzball

Here's the straight stuff.

The adventures of Harrison are true.
Try a few of his Crunchy Bites for a taste.
--Alpha Human Mom

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

End of The Greatest Generation

Some insisted he knew he was The King, swaggerin' onto the track, neck arched, and bowin' royally to the crowd with his own trademark canter.

They also tell the story that he could not stay calmly in his stall if left alone and lived with—a duck. When his trainers needed him fired up, they took him away from the duck—and onto a racetrack.

The bay colt who so many claim was greater than even Man 'o War, was owned and bred by Warren Wright's Calumet Farm, the most successful thoroughbred stable in American history. On April 22, 1947 Citation (1945-1970) began his racin' career. That year The Big Cy's only loss was to his stablemate Bewitch. Word quickly got around that Citation was held back to perserve the unbeaten filly's record and he hadn't been pushed to his utmost.

Citation's three-year-old debut was in an allowance race for three year olds and up at Hialeah, and coincided with the season debut of 1947's Horse of the Year, Armed. Citation beat him then and again in the Seminole Handicap. Legendary Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons commented "Up to this point Citation's done more than any horse I ever saw. And I saw Man o' War."

Not long after Citation won the Flamingo Stakes, his regular rider, Al Snider, drowned fishin' off the Florida Keys. Snider's friend Eddie Arcaro took over the reins and, 'cause of Arcaro's hesitancy, lost in his first start aboard the champ. He wouldn't make that mistake again for nearly two years.

Citation wiped up the track in the Derby Trial Stakes so only four stables were willin' to challenge the powerful Calumet duo of Citation and his half-brother Coaltown in the Derby itself. Speculation ran rampant over who would win, but the bettin' didn't. The two were coupled, so only win bets were accepted. At the half mile, Coaltown led by six, but Citation easily passed him for a three and a half length victory. Eddie Arcaro gave the widow of former jockey Al Snider a share of his Derby purse money.

Jimmy Jones, Citation's trainer, said his dad, Ben Jones, Whirlaway's trainer, told him the night before the race, "Jimmy, you can sleep well tonight, and you can take this as gospel: any horse Citation can see, he can catch. And he's got perfect eyesight."

The Big Cy was equally impressive in winning the Preakness Stakes, leading from wire to wire and cantering home five and a half lengths in front. Then, on his way to New York, he stopped off in Jersey to win the Jersey Stakes by eleven lengths. Don't think any of the pampered so-called champions of today could match that feat.

But some still questioned his stamina goin' into the Belmont—right up to the head of the long homestretch. Citation pulled away to an eight length win, tyin' Count Fleet's stakes record of 2:28 1/5. At the end of the day, Citation had easily swept the 1948 Triple Crown by a combined margin of seventeen lengths.

Later on jockey Eddie Arcaro commented: "He was so fast he scared me."

Citation injured his hip winnin' Chicago's Stars and Stripes Handicap, but took only a few weeks off then returned to polish off all comers, silencin' anyone who still doubted his stamina by winnin' the two-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup by seven lengths. Do they even run two mile races any more much less expect a horse who had just won the Triple Crown plus a few more races to win that sorta' race? Oh, and to round out the collection of trophies on his mantlepiece, The Big Cy grabbed the Empire City Cold Cup as well.

By the end of his three-year-old season, Citation had twenty seven wins and two seconds to his credit in twenty-nine lifetime starts. (Compare that to this year's probable Derby favorite who has only raced three times in two years.)
He won at every distance, at ten different tracks, and in seven different states, travelling in unairconditioned trucks and rail cars. He won all his races by a total of 66 lengths.

Unfortunately Citation had developed a form of osteo-arthritis, which kept him out of commission for the 1949 season and left Horse of the Year honors to his half-brother Coaltown.

In January of 1950 Citation came back after his layoff to win a six furlong race at Santa Anita, increasing his winning streak to a record sixteen straight victories makin' him one of only two major North American thoroughbreds (along with Cigar in 1994-96) to win 16 races in a row in major stakes competition.

Then he ran into a horse named Noor, startin' a classic rivalry, and settin' new world's records whenever they met. Citation won the Golden Gate Mile in world record time of 1:33 3/5 which stood until 1966. Noor, carrying 22 pounds less than Citation, nosed him out and set a new record in the Santa Anita Handicap. Carryin' an extra thirteen pounds, The Big Cy finshed second to Noor again in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap while Noor set a record that still stands today. At the end of the season, Citation had raced nine times, won twice, finished second seven times.

Citation would have retired in his six-year-old season, but Warren Wright's dying wish was for Citation to become the first equine millionaire, and so the champion raced on in pursuit of the goal. After a series of disappointin' losses that put Wright's wish in jeopardy, Citation took the Century Handicap, and followed the victory by scoring in the American Handicap.

In the final race of his career he came full circle, meetin' his stablemate Bewitch, the champion mare who had handed him his first defeat. The pair ran one-two in the Hollywood Gold Cup, and Citation's win finally put him over the million dollar mark.

The Million Dollar Baby passed away on August 8, 1970—the last of the Greatest Generation of racehorses.

posted by Harrison at 11:44 PM


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