In his new book, Citation, long-time Chicago race announcer Phil Georgeff, who holds the world record for races called at 96,131, reminds today's race fans of his all-time favorite Thoroughbred, the great Citation. Winner of the Triple Crown in 1948 and considered by some "The Greatest Thoroughbred Who Ever Lived", Citation also holds the distinction of holding the longest winning streak at 16 races (recently tied by Cigar and Hallowed Dreams, but still unbroken.) He was also the first horse to surpass $1 million in earnings, doing so at a time when purses were nowhere as high as they are today. By comparison, modern horses can earn in one race what it took Citation his entire career to achieve.
In his capacity as a track publicist at Arlington and Washington Parks in Chicago, Georgeff had the opportunity to personally meet with and interview many of the characters who surrounded Citation's life. These people include Calumet Farm owners Warren and Lucille Wright, trainers Ben and Jimmy Jones, farm secretary Margaret Glass, and the great jockey Eddie Arcaro. He unfortunately never got to meet Citation's first jockey, Al Snider, who mysteriously disappeared during a fishing trip, after which Arcaro inherited the ride. The stories Georgeff collected form the basis of the book and serve to increase his appreciation for "Mighty Cy". His writing style makes for a very entertaining yet informative read, perfectly suited to the subject at hand.
Georgeff takes the reader through Citation's career - his successful juvenile season, beating older horses early in his three-year-old season, his Triple Crown triumphs, and later on, defeating crack sprinters at a mile on a Wednesday then beating distance stars on Saturday in the two mile Jockey Club Gold Cup. Each important race is described in great detail, making it easy for the reader to visualize just how the race was run and how dominating Citation was when he was on his game. And he always came out onto the track "dressed for equine warfare - neck proudly arched and head regally bowed, in that personal trademark canter of his own creation."
He also takes us through the down times, Citation's time off the track to heal tendon injuries while his trainers were under pressure by Warren Wright to get him back quickly so he can earn the million. It is made clear that Citation should have been retired much sooner than he was, and if he had raced today he probably, would not have raced past the age of three or four, with breeding prospects thanks to both fashionable bloodlines and classic prowess. It was sad to read about him losing one race after another as his owners decided to nickel and dime their way to the million by over-racing the colt, taking advantage of the fact he liked to race on two week's rest. However, he showed that he was, as Georgeff liked to describe, "half human, half horse" by battling back to score in the Hollywood Gold Cup to become racing's first millionaire. He went on to a career at stud, and as if by design, racing would not witness another Triple Crown winner until three years after his death. "No horse was good, or great, enough to win the Triple Crown [...] while Mighty Cy lived and breathed."
To close out the book, Georgeff describes an "All Time Thoroughbred Great Fantasy Race" using his trademark race calling style. It is no surprise who he placed in front: "Citation was in a class by himself. All the others were valiant." Although strictly one person's opinion, his complete order of finish is one that every race fan would enjoy reading and debating over. Georgeff's work is strongly recommended to all racing fans especially history buffs. His aim was to ensure that Citation is never forgotten, and through this book he won't be.
Citation has a list price of $24.95 and is available from Amazon.com for $17.47.
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