Citation, Thoroughbred Racing’s First Millionaire
Citation is one of the most famous thoroughbred race horses of this and any other century. Although his career was somewhat short, this beautiful bay colt would make the most of it, becoming the first horse to win over one million dollars in a single season. Now, a million isn’t what it used to be, but Citation’s achievement was breathtaking for the era in which he raced: the late 1940s and early 1950s.
Born at Lexington, Kentucky’s Calumet Farm in 1945, Citation’s distinguished pedigree features Bull Lea as his sire and Hydroplane as his dam. Trainer Horace A. “Jimmy” Jones had high hopes for the sturdy two-year-old bay, and no one was less surprised than Jones when jockey Al Snider rode him to victory in his very first start at Havre de Grace in Maryland. Citation and Snider would team up to win 8 of 9 races in 1947, earning a handsome $155,680 when all was said and done.
A stellar accomplishment indeed, but Citation had much more to show the next year. In his prime as a three-year-old, the eyes of the horseracing world were on Citation. The 1948 season began much as the previous one had ended, with Citation once again claiming victory over Ahmed, 1947’s winner of the coveted Eclipse Award for Horse of the Year. Then, tragedy struck… while on a fishing trip in the Florida Keys, Al Snider drowned. Frantic to find a jockey to replace Snider in time for the season’s biggest race, the Kentucky Derby, Jimmy Jones hired Eddie Arcaro to ride Citation. The pairing was a match made in heaven – Citation won the Derby by 3½ lengths, then the Preakness by 5½ lengths. Although Citation won his next race, the Jersey Derby, everyone from the owner of Calumet Farms down to the least senior stable boy was looking ahead to the Belmont Stakes, third jewel in horseracing’s Triple Crown. Sure enough, Citation proved he had what it takes to be a true champion, conquering the Belmont’s challenging distance to become only the 8th Triple Crown winner in racing history. It would be a quarter century before any horse could match Citation’s triumph in ’48… and it was not “any horse” who did it, but the legendary Secretariat in 1973.