1951: Citation-The First Millionaire
At five years old, Citation had already earned his place as one of racing's greatest Thoroughbreds. Three seasons removed from his Triple Crown campaign, Big Cy could also boast the longest win streak of any racehorse. Between the spring of 1948 to the early days of 1950, the bay son of Bull Lea went undefeated in a staggering sixteen starts. Even if the Triple Crown had not come his way, Citation would have deservedly earned a place in racing lore for that period of sheer dominance.
But more was destined for the larger-than-life colt. He swept the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He put together a highly vaunted win streak that would stand for decades (it would be until the middle part of the 1990's before Cigar equaled the mark). And he was a divisional champion at two and three years of age. Add to that the 1948 Top Handicap Horse and Horse of the Year titles, and Citation stood as a highly decorated equine, undoubtedly one of the best in the first half of the twentieth century.
Those were all richly deserved accomplishments, but Citation's career was not yet complete. One more record awaited the popular and stout horse.
Citation did not have a four-year-old season due to being treated for an osselet. Back at the races in 1950, Citation moved West to Southern California, and got the year started off with a win at Santa Anita. What followed next was a string of second place finishes, with a win in the Golden Gate Mile up North sandwiched between them. This was the period where Citation faced his greatest rival, Noor, who beat Big Cy in most of their meetings.
Clearly not the dominant force he was in 1948, Citation still proved formidable. And he could still win, though walks to the winners' circle were less frequent. Stationed at Hollywood Park for the 1951 spring/summer meet, the charge of Ben and Jimmy Jones captured a one mile handicap race in late June and the 1 1/8 mile American Handicap on July 4. That set him up for a start in the Hollywood Gold Cup ten days later. The biggest race of the session, the Gold Cup carried some added intrigue due to Citation being on the verge of achieving something unprecedented.
Before his passing in 1950, Warren Wright, the head of Calumet Farm, received "a promise from the Joneses to keep Citation on the track until he passed the $1 million mark." Citation was within striking distance to do so on July 14, 1951, when he met up with nine fellow horses. All Blue and Bewitch were Calumet mates with Big Cy, and the trio collectively were the odds-on favorites (obviously due to Citation). The remaining horses were Akimbo, Alderman, Be Fleet, Lotowhite, Sturdy One, Sudan, and Tantamount.
Make no mistake, Citation's presence in the Hollywood Gold Cup was an event, as Paul Lowry wrote in the July 15, 1951 edition of the Los Angeles Times. "The huge crowd cheered Citation when he was led into the paddock to be saddled. They cheered some more when the big bay horse, his ears pricked and his nerves atune to the spirit of the occasion, arched his neck as he walked on the track." More than 50,000 were on hand to see the seventh Triple Crown champion make his way to the starting gate.
Aboard Big Cy was Steve Brooks, who rode him for most of the colt's time in California. Drawing post ten, the tough bay colt had the widest trip of all at the beginning of the Hollywood Gold Cup. But that did not faze him. Very much in charge going around the far turn, the son of Bull Lea put multiple lengths between him and the field. They tried catching him, but destiny was not about to let Citation down. He kept running, seeming relaxed as the thousands of fans called the horses to the wire. They all saw a great horse be the best on track one more time, and Lowry wrote what happened at the finish. "And they roared a deafening salute when he hit the wire in front."
Citation was four lengths clear of Bewitch, giving Calumet a sweep of the exacta, and headlines in the sports sections of newspapers the next day. The first place check granted Warren Wright's wish. Citation stood as racing's leading money winner, and the first to knock down the $1 million barrier. It would not be until later that decade before Nashua superseded Big Cy in earnings.
With the Hollywood Gold Cup in his possession, Citation retired with a record of thirty-two wins, ten runner up finishes, and a pair of thirds in forty-five starts. His earnings totaled $1,085,760. He showed up at Hollywood Park on week after his final triumph, parading for his public one more time.
Citation's home was in Kentucky once his racing career ended, for he went back to the Bluegrass State for stud duty. But just as he had in the East at three, Big Cy left an impact on California. He was the first Triple Crown winner to compete on the circuit, the first to start in and win the Hollywood Gold Cup, and of course, the first horse to earn a million dollars in career earnings.
For those reasons, Citation will always have a deserving place in the Southland's racing history.
Source: Lowry, Paul. "Calumet Champion Four-Length Victor." Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1951