Citation stole Preakness hearts in 1948 Powerful: The racehorse's versatility was so intimidating that only three other competitors entered the race that year. They lost.

May 16, 1998|By FRED RASMUSSEN | FRED RASMUSSEN,SUN STAFF

Under what The Sun described as "billowing white clouds hung suspended in an azure sky, an all-star crowd of 32,244 crammed into Old Hilltop to witness the 72nd running of the Preakness in 1948.

Included among the illuminati were cabinet members, statemen and congressmen, and such personalities as J. Edgar Hoover, Clyde Tolson, Gen. Omar N. Bradley, Dorothy Lamour and her husband, William Ross Howard.

"The enlarged dining room force had hardly completed placing table silver and the Woodlawn vase and its replica on a hall table in the clubhouse when the first of the many distinguished guests arrived, many wearing straw hats," reported The Sun. The crowd was serenaded by a red-coated 75-piece brass band, playing "Dixie" and "Maryland, My Maryland."

It was also the first time that the race was telecast -- a program put on jointly by WMAR-TV and Columbia Broadcasting System -- for an audience estimated to be 226,100 in Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

"Finally, the fifth race was over and the sixth, the Preakness, was coming up. The atmosphere seemed to become suddenly electrified," the newspaper said.

At 5: 07 p.m., a bugle sounded. A voice announced: "The horses are now on the track. It will be eight minutes before the start of the Preakness," reported The Sun.

Only four horses were entered in the Preakness that year, the smallest field since Count Fleet ren Wright's million dollar baby."

"Citation is still my favorite horse," said Joseph B. Kelly, former Washington Star racing editor and racing historian, who will be watching the 123rd running of the Preakness today.

"Citation was such a versatile horse that could overcome muddy tracks or fast tracks, short races or long races. He could adapt to any and all circumstances."

Recalling the field that year, Kelly says with a laugh, "None of the Derby horses came up to Pimlico. They had to dig up horses to run against Citation, because he had scared them all off."

Because of his strong credentials and performance, Kelly easily places Citation in the exclusive "Big Three" club that included such equine legends as Man O' War and Secretariat.

With Eddie Arcaro in the saddle, Citation led from start to finish and raced to a six-length victory, with Vulcan's Forge finishing second, Bovard third and Better Self fourth.

As the traditional Black-Eyed Susans were draped around Citaplained his successful run.

"It was a privilege to ride such a horse," he told The Sun. "I hit him twice when he showed signs of loafing."

Years later, Arcaro described Citation as a "demon" and said: "He was the best 3-year-old I ever rode. ...He had more gears than a sports car."

Citation's trainer, Jimmy Jones, 91, told the Louisville-Courier Journal in an interview last month that Citation "could beat anything with hair on it."

The first thoroughbred to win more than $1 million, Citation was retired to stud in 1951 at Calumet Farms in Kentucky, after 45 races, 32 first-place finishes, 10 seconds, two thirds and one fifth.

Citation died in 1970 at Calumet Farm after siring more than 250 foals that won more than 1,000 races and more than $3 million.

Despite being a power horse, there was an element of the human in Citation.

"What of Citation's personality? Those who claim to know say he has excellent manners on and off the track and a charming disposition. There is nothing 'upstage' about him. After a race he is calm, enjoys a good meal and then lies down for a good nap. What is more, he snores, a human characteristic that should endear him to everyone -- everyone, that is, except his stablemates," said The Sun.

Pub Date: 5/16/98

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