Today in Racing History is an occasional feature focusing on some of racing history’s interesting, important, or unusual events.
April 17, 1948
by Richard Hackerman
Havre De Grace Race Track was a mainstay of the Maryland Circuit until the track’s demise in 1950. Affectionately known as “The Graw,” the one mile oval operated from 1912 to 1950 until it was sold to the owners of Laurel and Pimlico who promptly transferred its racing dates to their respective tracks. At one time Havre De Grace was owned by mobster Arnold Rothstein. Racing luminaries including Man o’ War, Equipoise, War Admiral and Seabiscuit graced the racing surface located not far from the banks of the Susquehanna River.
Among those stars was Citation. The bay son of Bull Lea was ranked 3rd among horses of the 20th century by The Blood-Horse, behind only Secretariat and Man o’ War.
He arrived in Maryland on April 12, 1948, having already won the first four starts of his sophomore season. Tragically, Al Snider, his jockey aboard those wins, drowned while on a fishing trip in the Florida Keys.
Eddie Arcaro was summoned to Havre De Grace to replace Snider in the Chesapeake Trial, a six-furlong dash set five days before the Chesapeake Stakes, then a major prep race for the Kentucky Derby. Citation was the heavy favorite in what figured to be an easy tuneup.
Those plans went awry, however, when Saggy — a horse the Associated Press described as “a baggy-legged auction colt” — posted a one-length upset over the odds-on favorite. Saggy later stood at Country Life Farm in Maryland and sired dual classic winner Carry Back.
Just five days later after the Trial, on April 17, 1948 in the Chesapeake Stakes, before a crowd of 15,000 at Havre De Grace, Citation proved the result a fluke. With his reputation at stake, Citation, at 1 to 5, breezed to victory by four lengths over second place finisher Bovard. Saggy was 4th and last, beaten by by 15 1/2 lengths.
This win began Citation’s 16-race winning streak, which included the 1948 Triple Crown. Citation was 1948 champion 3 year old, champion older horse and horse of the year. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1959. He finished his career with 32 wins and over one million dollars in earnings, a huge amount in his day.
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