Biggest Events in Sports The Kentucky Derby Part 2 History

About the Kentucky Derby horse race, history of major highlights in the sporting event held at Churchill Downs.




1948 Calumet Farm had first seen its silks of devil's red with blue-hooped sleeves in the winner's circle in 1941, when Eddie Arcaro carried them to victory aboard Whirlaway. In 1944 Pensive gave Calumet its second victory. Now, in 1948, it seemed as if the triumvirate of Calumet the breeder, Ben Jones the trainer, and Arcaro the jockey was going to do it again. The horse who would do the actual running was Citation.

One of the few horses the experts argue could hold his own against the indomitable Man o' War, Citation went on to become racing's first equine millionaire. The golden chestnut colt came along when Calumet was at the height of its power and prestige. As a two-year-old, Citation had passed every test with flying colors and was named two-year-old champion. At three, he showed his true greatness when he beat a field of older horses that included Armed, voted horse of the year in 1947.

Citation seemed a cinch to win the Kentucky Derby. But then a second horse came on the scene. Coal Town, unraced at two, won his first race in brilliant fashion and then won his second race in record-breaking time, 12 lengths ahead of the field. Coal Town was also a half brother of Citation, trained by Ben Jones and owned by Calumet Farm. Everyone knew Calumet and Jones were going to win another derby, but was Arcaro? He began to wonder if he was riding the best horse. Jones assured Arcaro that Citation was Coal Town's superior, but many experts gave Coal Town the edge.

So powerful was the Citation-Coal Town tandem that only four other horses dared race against them, creating the smallest derby field since 1905, when only three colts went to the post.

At 4:32 P.M. on May 1, 1948, the starting gate flew open and Coal Town raced into the lead. Citation ran down the backstretch in second position, but with a half-mile of the race completed, Coal Town drew out to a six-length lead. Arcaro grew uneasy and clucked at the brilliant colt beneath him. Citation responded. He began to eat into Coal Town's lead easily while leaving the four others decisively behind. At the far turn, the two Calumet horses ran together for a brief time, and then Citation began to draw away. He easily won the race by more than three lengths, and Coal Town beat the rest of the field by the same margin.

Good as Coal Town was, he was no match for his great stablemate. Later that year, Citation won the Preakness and Belmont stakes to become Calumet's second Triple Crown winner.

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