Citation, a bay colt foaled on April 11, 1945, was owned and bred by Warren Wright's Calumet Farm, the most successful thoroughbred stable in American history. Like many other Calumet champions, he was sired by Bull Lea, who raced in Calumet's red and blue colors himself prior to becoming one of the most successful sires in turf history. Citation's dam, *Hydroplane II, was a daughter of English champion Hyperion, whose wins included the 1933 Epsom Derby and the St. Leger Stakes.
The Big Cy began his racing career in 1947, during a golden age of American racing which was dominated by his home stable. Calumet's two year olds that year included Citation, the Champion Two Year Old Colt, and Bewitch, the Champion Two Year Old Filly, as well as Citation's rival for Championship honors, and future 1949 Horse of the Year, Coaltown. Calumet Farm also owned the 1947 Horse of the Year, Armed, a brown gelding who, like the other three, was sired by Bull Lea. The responsibility of training the Calumet Farm horses was shared by Ben A. Jones and his son H.A. "Jimmy" Jones during the mid-1940's.
On April 22, Citation made his racing debut, winning a four and a half furlong maiden race at Havre de Grace by a length. He broke Arlington Park's track record for five furlongs in his second start, and scored his first stakes win in Washington Park's Elementary Stakes. During his two-year-old season, Citation's only loss was to his unbeaten stablemate Bewitch in the Washington Park Futurity. The filly set a stakes record of 1:10 2/5 in the race, while Calumet Farm's Free America ran third. Speculation was high that Citation was held back in order to prevent tarnishing the filly's record, and he certainly hadn't been pushed to his limits in the race.
After winning the 1947 Futurity Trial Stakes, Citation evened the score with his stablemate in the Belmont Futurity, handing Bewitch her first defeat. Cy scored his final juvenile victory in the Pimlico Futurity, and for his efforts, Citation was rewarded with divisional championship honors.
Citation's three-year-old debut came in a six furlong allowance race for three year olds and up at Hialeah. Also making his season debut was the previous year's Horse of the Year, Armed, whom Citation beat by a length. The two were also entered in the Seminole Handicap, and once again the younger horse prevailed. Citation's victories over Armed prompted Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons to utter the praise, "Up to this point Citation's done more than any horse I ever saw. And I saw Man o' War." Rarely did a three-year-old challenge, let alone defeat, older horses so early in the season.
Stepping back into his own division, Citation won both the Everglades Stakes and the Flamingo Stakes with authority. But when his regular rider, Al Snider, was killed in a fishing accident and Eddie Arcaro took over the reins, the young star suffered his second defeat. Arcaro was afraid to ask too much of the young horse in order to make up for his own error in judgment, and Citation ran second to Saggy, who later sired Carry Back, in a very muddy Chesapeake Trial Stakes. The loss was quickly avenged, however, for Citation won the Chesapeake Stakes from Bovard by four and a half lengths, with Saggy finishing another eleven lengths back.
After Citation's success in the Derby Trial Stakes, only four stables were brave enough to send out horses against the powerful Calumet entry. The only question seemed to be which set of red and blue silks would prevail. Rumors flew that Coaltown would beat Citation, but since the two colts were coupled, those beliefs were worthless at the betting windows. Win bets only were accepted at Churchill Downs when Citation met his stablemate in the Kentucky Derby. At the half mile, Coaltown led by six, but Citation, with Eddie Arcaro in the irons, moved past him with ease for a three and a half length victory.
The Big Cy was equally impressive in winning the Preakness Stakes, leading from wire to wire and cantering to a five and a half length score over Vulcan's Forge. The Big Cy's pre-Belmont Stakes workout consisted of an eleven length romp of triumph in the Jersey Stakes, which surprisingly failed to scare off the competition. The Bull Lea colt's stamina was questioned, and doubts persisted even as Citation led the field into Belmont's great homestretch. Then Citation made his move, and all hope of upset faded as he opened his lead to eight lengths, tying Count Fleet's stakes record of 2:28 1/5. Citation had easily swept the 1948 Triple Crown, his winning margins in the three races totaling seventeen lengths.
In tying Armed's track record in Chicago's Stars and Stripes Handicap, Citation injured his hip, but it took only a few weeks of recovery for The Big Cy to return to the races in winning form, scoring in the American Derby before returning to New York to make such horses as Coaltown, Natchez, First Flight, and Spy Song inhale his dust in the Sysonby Mile. Those still doubting Citation's stamina in spite of a Triple Crown were proven wrong a few weeks later, when he won the two mile long Jockey Club Gold Cup by seven lengths from 1947 Preakness winner Phalanx and the champion mare Conniver. Reinforcing the point, Citation followed the win by romping to victory in the mile and five-sixteenths of the Empire City Gold Cup.
After The Big Cy's two most recent displays of speed and stamina, not a single horse in the nation dared challenge him in the winner-take-all Pimlico Special, and Citation was left to win in a walkover. Despite the lack of competition and Eddie Arcaro's tight hold, Citation ran the mile and a quarter in a brilliant 1:59 4/5. Leaving Maryland, Citation headed west, winning two races, including the Tanforan Handicap in track record time. 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, and had earned $865,150 as well as the title of 1948 Horse of the Year. He had also developed an osselet, a form of osteo-arthritis affecting the fetlock joint, which kept him out of commission for a season and left Horse of the Year honors to his stablemate Coaltown in 1949.
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. In his next start, he met Noor, Charles S. Howard's talented Irish-bred son of *Nasrullah, for the first time, and one of the most famous rivalries in racing history began. The two exchanged blows for several months, and new world records were set each time they met. Citation won the Golden Gate Mile, setting a new world record of 1:33 3/5 which stood until 1966. Noor, carrying 110 pounds, nosed out Citation, who carried 132 pounds, to set a new world record in the Santa Anita Handicap. Giving away thirteen pounds, The Big Cy was once again second to Noor in the San Juan Capistrano Handicap. Noor's world record of 2:52 4/5 for a mile and three quarters, set in the San Juan Capistrano, still stands today. Citation also chased Noor to world record times in the Forty-Niners Handicap and the Golden Gate Handicap. At the end of the season, Citation had raced nine times, won twice, finished second to Noor six times, and finished second to Roman Inn in a world record setting six furlong sprint.
Things came harder to Citation in his six-year-old season. He would have been retired, 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. In his first start in ten months, Cy ran third in a six furlong sprint. He was third again the next time out. Then, in the Hollywood Premiere Handicap Citation ran out of the money for the first time in his career. It began to appear that Warren Wright's dream was not to be, especially when Citation lost again in the Argonaut Handicap, but the race was his final defeat. In his next start, Citation took the Century Handicap, and followed the victory by scoring in the American Handicap. In the final race of his career, Citation met his stablemate Bewitch, the champion mare who had handed him his first defeat. When the pair ran one-two in the Hollywood Gold Cup, Citation's win put him over the million dollar mark, while second money made Bewitch the all-time leading money winning mare, with her earnings totaling $462,605.
After making a final public appearance at Arlington Park in Chicago, Citation retired to Calumet Farm, along with the champions Coaltown and Bewitch. A Triple Crown winner, Horse of the Year, and the leading money winner in the world, Citation had also received the honor of becoming the first champion to be painted by Richard Stone Reeves.
The Big Cy enjoyed moderate success at stud, standing at Calumet and siring the Champion filly Silver Spoon and Preakness Stakes winner Fabius. The great horse passed away on August 8, 1970, and Citation is buried at Calumet Farm in Kentucky, near his sire and dam.
Video by Carly Kaiser
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